#63 – New Morning

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Artist – Alpha Rev
Album – New Morning
Year – 2010
Genre – Alternative/Acoustic Rock

I don’t have many things to say to open this one. All I can say is that when I first heard this song, I knew it was something special. You will too, I hope. It never really got much attention after it was first released, but it deserves every bit of praise it gets.

The instrumentation of this song can best be described like this: the music is like a man who doesn’t speak much, but when he does, it’s powerful and moving beyond belief. The song constantly adds layers upon layers. It’s guitar, then accordion, then piano, and so on. The first verse is gentle, but when the backing synth and strings hit you during the chorus, it knock the wind out of you. Even the drums and guitar “solo” in the middle of the song don’t sound out of place. The whole song just builds to a hugely triumphant and very emotional climax.

The vocals are the absolute star of this song. Frontman Casey McPherson has a voice so beautiful, powerful, and gentle at the same time, I haven’t heard many like it since. It’s absolutely moving in the way he sings the chorus. If you’re looking for a song to give you chills throughout your whole body, listen to the chorus of this song. Each one get’s better and better as more and more instruments add to the power. His voice is in this song is just profound to me in a way that’s hard to explain. As he climbs higher and higher, he loses no sense of emotion, and you can tell he is throwing every ounce of himself into this track.

The lyrics at first glance are hard to understand in terms of meaning. They’re sort of cryptic, and I think this is a song that each person will have a different meaning for. However, I interpret it as this: there is beauty everywhere around us, and all it takes to see it sometimes is looking at things in a new light, and being thankful for the simple things; the things that we take for granted that are around us every day. We all have the capability to experience unimaginable beauty in the people around us, or even the world around us, if we’re just willing to take a step back and truly look.

This song moved me, and I’m certainly not ashamed to say it. It’s a sign of a song that has accomplished it’s task to the fullest degree. If you want to be moved too, this is for you. It’s powerful, emotional, yet gentle and simple. It’s been awhile since I used the word honest in a review, but here it is: the song is pure honesty and poetry, and that’s the highest praise a song can get from me.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to leave a comment!

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#62 – Apply Some Pressure

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Artist – Maximo Park
Album – A Certain Trigger
Year – 2005
Genre – Alternative

Ahhh memories. The first time I heard this song, or really this band, I was busy crashing through cars and drag racing the streets of Rome. I mean in Burnout Revenge of course! With one of most quirky riffs I’ve heard in a rock song, Apply Some Pressure by Maximo Park is the coolest song by the coolest band you don’t know.

When I say quirkiest riff, you’ll know what I mean as soon as you hear the first 3 seconds of this song. As strange as it is, it’s infectious. The same goes goes for the voice of frontman Paul Smith, which fits perfectly with the rest of the song. The song, which goes through some very strange rhythmic changes, is quite catchy. The constant descending verses will have you singing along, and by the time the drums really kick in, the song is already in full swing.

The structure of the song is strange as well, as there really is not a set “chorus” per say. The bit after the first verses, whatever you want to call it here, is super hooky and probably the best part of the song. It really gets you going. I guess that’s why the song was in a racing game. The first half is the hooky build up to the frenetic second half of the song, which is furiously paced until the last repeat of the initial verses.

The instruments are also split into halves, with the first half being the quirky, yet powerful section, while the second half is straight up rock and roll, with power chords and a standard drum beat. Overall, the tone of the instruments, especially the guitar, is perfect for this type of unique songwriting and singing.

The lyrics are actually clever and thought provoking despite the uptempo, fun nature of the song. They deal with constantly changing notions of a relationship, and how things often change very fast in life. However, there is always the opportunity to start again, and hence the cyclical nature of the song. And hey, I can relate to this line:

What’s my view, well, how am I supposed to know?
Write a review, well, how objective can I be?

I think you can see why I relate to this one. Here’s some more great lyrics to look out for:

I testify to having guilty feelings
I must confess I’d like to be caught stealing

Behind your veil I found a body underneath
Inside your head were things I never thought about

Hoo boy, those are some good lyrics.

Maximo Park is quickly proving themselves to be a band I want to listen to more and more with every song I hear. I strongly encourage you to do the same, and if you want a great overall taste of the group and their sound, this is the song for you. I can almost guarantee the majority of your friends will not know who they are, or will think you’re cool for knowing them!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave a comment!

Q and A #1

Hey everyone,

So I had this idea. I love interacting and talking with all of you out there, and as much as I love to know what you think about my posts and the songs, I’m also curious to know if you have any questions for ME. So I want to open the floor to questions about anything. It can be music related, such as what genre’s are my favorites/least favorites, what musicians I admire, etc. or it could be really about anything else. Maybe what movies I like, what’s my political stance, I really don’t know I’m just spitballing here.

But anyway, I guess I just really want to interact more with you guys out there, whether that be through music or not, so please leave a comment on this post and ask away! I promise to answer, no matter what the question!

This is an experimental post, so I guess if I don’t get any questions, I won’t continue. I really want to though, so please send me some questions, all.

Thank you all again for taking the time

Kris

#61 – Collar Full

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Artist – Panic! At the Disco
Album – Too Rare to Live, Too Rare to Die
Year – 2013
Genre – Pop Punk

Oh, believe me, there were SO many Panic! at the Disco songs I wanted to review first, but I thought, “Kris, what’s a great Panic! song that people may have overlooked?” Their new album immediately came to mind, and that’s how I ended up doing a review for this song. “Collar Full” is a wonderfully catchy, upbeat, and fun song that really got overlooked in favor of the singles released from this album, but have no fear, that’s what I’m here for!

The dance-synth intro glitters as the song hops into gear as frontman (and ever popular Vine poster) Brendon Urie croons “We’ve waited so damn long.” Right now you get a pretty good taste for the sultry nature of the song, and as the song goes on this only becomes more apparent. The song is pretty fast paced, so certain parts of the song may seem to fly by, but the song actually does a great job at really pulling you in, letting you down, and doing it all over again.

The chorus hits you right in the chest with a bang. Urie’s voice soars and slides up and down the scale effortlessly. That same ascending and descending is what captivates in every chorus. It’s catchy, yes, but it gives Urie a chance to really shine on a quicker pace that hasn’t been seen since Panic!’s earlier albums.

The song doesn’t let up the electronic drums pulse and Urie swoons into the next verse. It’s a fast song about fast love. The lyrics are simple, but create the perfect pop song. They’re easy to remember and even easier (and more fun) to sing along to.

The next chorus has a surprise. After the normal melody finishes, it repeats with some wonderful harmony “ohs” that overlay perfectly. Some intense guitar strums lead into a quiet chorus that explodes into the last, with some beautiful “ohs” and more guitar to cap off this short, perfect pop-rock track.

It’s a shame this track got overlooked on this album, because it really encapsulates not only a great Panic! at the Disco song, but a great pop-rock/pop-punk song. Great melody, fast pacing, soulful singing, infectious beats, and sensuous lyrics combine to create a well oiled machine of a song. This is a must listen!

Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave a comment!

#60 – I’m Shipping Up to Boston

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Artist – Dropkick Murphys
Album – The Warrior’s Code
Year – 2005
Genre – Celtic Punk

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all those who are, or are pretending to be Irish today! I had to do SOMETHING Irish related today, and what better song than one that helped bring Celtic punk to the mainstream. The Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly are America’s two mainstream heavy hitters in this genre, so a track from one of them seemed natural. One quick fun fact, Woodie Guthrie actually wrote the lyrics in this song!

As soon as you hear those deep strings from the get go, you know it’s about to go down. The opening banjo and accordion riff makes me want to do a jig, while the guitar just makes me want to break things. It’s like getting in a drunken barfight, only in a safer, musical version! Singer Ken Casey just rips throughout the whole song, I would evaluate more on the vocals in this song, only it’s mostly yelling with some singing and gang vocals in the chorus. In any case, the vocals are powerful and punchy. It really makes you want to scream along!

The instruments are powerful as well, and what the song lacks in variety and texture, it make up for in sheer fun and wild tenacity. It’s a song that does exactly what you probably do when you hear it. It rocks out and straight up has a party, complete with beer drinking, hell raising, and good times galore. The lyrics are whimsical and fun (I mean we’re all looking for our wooden leg, right?)

This is the perfect Saint Patrick’s Day song for your playlist. It rocks out with that Celtic flair that sets these kinds of groups apart, and it’s perfect to go crazy to. However, I hope you all have a happy, safe Saint Patrick’s Day today!

Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment!

#59 – Year of the Cat

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Artist – Al Stewart
Album – Year of the Cat
Year – 1976
Genre – Soft Rock, Singer/Songwriter

Greetings to you all from California! Right now I’m currently in sunny Monterey, and this is my first review from the Golden State! I can assure you there will be at least one California themed song in the coming week so you can all rest easy. For now, let’s take a look at British singer/songwriter Al Stewart’s lovely soft rock anthem, “Year of the Cat.”

That oh so good piano riff that you hear at the beginning, you get to hear throughout the whole song! This whole song has a jazzy sort of sensibility to it and has great texture thanks to the talented piano playing and guitar courtesy of Stewart. It’s almost dreamlike in a sense, and romantic for sure. It’s a very sensual song about forgetting the stresses of life and sometimes going where life takes you, all through the metaphor of a beautiful woman.

Stewart’s voice is soft and delicate, but his wordplay is mesmerizing and very visual.

“She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain”

“And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea”

These are but a few examples of Stewart’s evocative writing in this song. His lyrics really evoke a strong sense of romance and passion, as does the music. Speaking of which…

Musically the song is very well constructed with a nice progression and some very talented musicians. The piano especially stands out, and there are some nice little licks thrown in here and there that keep the song interesting. However, we have to talk about the acoustic/electric guitar solo about halfway through the song. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. The way it’s played brings out a mood of sensuality and love, and it’s easy to picture a beautiful woman like the one in the song just by hearing the guitar solo alone. It’s not complicated by any means, but it’s one of my top 5 favorite solos of all time just by the sheer emotion of it.

After the solo, there’s some nice saxophone work and a final verse from Stewart, who closes out the song with that delicate, yet very pleasing voice of his. After some instrumental flourishes at the end, the song finally fades to a close.

This song is worth listening to just because of the guitar solo alone. It’s a song full of romantic lyrical imagery and talented music that really sucks you in. It’s emotional, sensual, and dreamlike; the kind of song you can just close your eyes and picture what Stewart sings about. Even if the song as a whole doesn’t sound interesting to you, I can’t stress enough just how good the solo is. Seriously, listen from 3:20 to 3:53. You’ll be glad you did.

Thanks for listening and be sure to leave a comment! More to come from California soon!

#58 – Roses and Butterflies

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Artist – Making April
Album – Runaway World
Year – 2006
Genre – Emo/Piano Rock

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best tragic love song that you’ve never heard. Also, here’s a fun fact: Making April was formed at SUNY Albany. Even though I go to SUNY Geneseo, it’s cool to hear of a band that came out of the SUNY system anyway. Let’s get to it.

I’m a huge sucker for piano in modern music, and this song begins with an absolutely breathtaking piano motif that repeats throughout the song. Vocalist Sean Scanlon has an incredible voice that cuts through you like a knife. His vocals from the beginning show incredible range, as he whispers as if telling a secret, and seconds later he is belting with all he has. His style is so emotional (hence the genre) you can almost feel his tears as he sings. I personally have nothing against the “emo” label, as I feel it’s a very honest way of expressing sadness and pain through music.

If the verses are gentle and sensitive, than the chorus is a full on plea for Scanlon’s sorrows to end. He sings with authority and great skill, and this chorus is catchy, but in a beautiful way so that it stays in your head, but also speaks to you. It’s depressive, and yet uplifting in that way that only sad songs can be.

Let’s talk about the lyrics now:

“I was caught in an awkward silence
broken down by the sound of your prelude that you played
to open our symphony”

The lyrics in this song are like poetry taken straight from a romance novel, but I guess since I’m a romantic I think they’re very poignant and beautifully written. They’re clever in a way that makes you feel for Scanlon as he sings. The words cut you, and that’s a sign of good songwriting.

Seriously? Scanlon is too good at singing! Watch this and see.

The instruments fit the song perfectly. What’s more tragically romantic than a piano and strings? Those, and some well placed background guitar create the perfect texture for the goal this song has in mind. Scanlon’s got some chops too. He adds very nice flourishes on the piano here and there to vary it up and almost make a musical sigh or breath. After the second chorus, which raises the stakes and builds you up to a crescendo, there’s a piano solo that rises and falls like the emotion of the song.

After the constant build up throughout the song, the ending verse and chorus just blow it all away into an absolutely huge ending. There’s wonderful harmonies and vocal overlay, and crashing instruments galore. It’s the ultimate release the song has been seeking throughout. It’s cathartic and absolute pleasure to listen to.

I guess if I could sum up the song, it would be that the WHOLE song is a pleasure to listen to. It exercises those demons of love we all have stored up inside of us, if even just for a little bit. It’s a dose of beautiful medicine that everyone can enjoy. Great songwriting and instruments come together and paint a tragic, yet intensely romantic view of love gone wrong.

Thanks for reading, and as always, please leave a comment about the song and review!

#57 – You’ll Be Comin’ Down

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Artist – Bruce Springsteen
Album – Magic
Year – 2007
Genre – Modern Classic Rock

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Kris, what’s with the weird genre label?” Well, there are two ways I divide up the career of The Boss. The first is the pre The Rising. This is the era where Bruce enjoyed fame from the 70’s up to the 90’s, where people started to lose interest in his music. This is the classic rock phase. Then comes the post Rising era, where he made a huge comeback in pop culture. To me, Bruce is always classic rock, but since he adopted a more modern sound, I call it “modern classic.”

Anyway with that bit of jargon out of the way, I’ll say this: I am not a huge Springsteen fan. I always thought that his music was too focused on one type of lyric writing, which I called “social activist” writing. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of writing, it’s just that when that’s the majority of your writing, it gets a little old. But this is one song I really enjoy. “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” is a super catchy, balls to the wall anthem for Bush era America, while still having a personal emotional resonance to me. This is a great song, so let’s start.

That signature Springsteen guitar sound opens the song with a pretty straightforward riff straight from the heartland. Then he comes in with that gruff and tumble voice that only he has. As soon he gets to the prechorus, you can tell this song is going to be catchy and melodic. Then the chorus hits you like, if I may use another Spingsteen reference, a wrecking ball. It’s loud and in your face and infectious as everything. All the while the E Street Band is slamming away and playing their hearts out.

I have to mention the lyrics in this song. At first glance, they appear to be written about superficiality and shallowness in an everyday context, but this album was a direct attack at President Bush, so a lot of the lyrics make metaphorical sense when viewed from that angle. All in all, its very clever and all encompassing songwriting. It can be interpreted on a political level, or a personal level, so everyone wins.

After the second chorus and after the bridge, the late Clarence Clemons has a nice, simple little sax solo. It’s not showy, but it fits the overall message and tone of the band as per usual. The last verse and chorus ratchet up the power one last time before the song ends. I found myself wanting to belt out the chorus to this song every time I heard it, so if that’s not indicative of the song, I don’t know what is.

I may not like everything Bruce Springsteen does, but I do know he’s a talented songwriter and musician. Once and awhile I find one of his gems that resonate with me, and this is one. However, this is a song that everyone who likes good old fashioned rock and roll can enjoy. It’s a rustic, catchy sound brought into the modern frame of mind. The power never seems to go away, and that’s a good thing for us.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave a comment!

#56 – Life In Technicolor II

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Artist – Coldplay
Album – Prospekt’s March
Year – 2008
Genre – Post-Britpop/Alternative

I just had a learning experience before I wrote this review. I learned that Coldplay and other bands like them, like Keane and Snow Patrol are in fact POST Britpop, and not straight Britpop, which is how I previously categorized them. Oh well, you learn something new every day. I guess that’s why I love music so much! Anyway, picking my first Coldplay review was tough, but I eventually knew this song had to be the one. It’s probably one of my top favorites in any case.

The beginning of this song is certainly one of the most catchy and memorable intros Coldplay has ever created. I believe the instrument used is called a Santoor, which comes from the middle east. It’s overlaid beautifully with some acoustic guitar until the beat finally kicks in with arena-like grandiosity. There is a great deal of lush texture here and it paints a joyful, upbeat musical picture.

The instruments throughout are powerful and delicate at the same time. They really add this sort of brightness to the whole track, as if every instrument is just ringing out like a bell. It’s really stellar work from the whole band, from the drums, to the synth/piano, to the guitar. Everything meshes perfectly.

Chris Martin’s singing voice in this song is perfect for the tone the song sets. It’s bright and triumphant, and he sings the song very well. The first verse goes down alright, but the chorus is really where the song hits you right where you want it to. As the instruments blend and swirl, Martin’s voice absolutely soars and goes to new heights. The melody is really, really catchy as well, and there’s a great resolution at the end of the chorus.

There’s a nice little instrumental connective part that repeats the intro, but I just love hearing that santoor, so I think it fits very nicely. The next verse is really a step up from the last.

“Every road is a ray of light”

That’s the line right there. Not only is it my favorite lyric in the song, the way Martin sings it gives me chills. As soon as Martin hits that falsetto, he just belts out the final lines and changes up the melody to an even better one. The next chorus is just as good as the first, and then there’s a great deal of build up until the end, which puts you right on the edge.

As the band yells out in chorus, Martin finally ends with one last “Now my feet won’t touch the ground,” and the song cuts out and takes its last breath, but this bombastic song has left you with a feeling of happiness and a melody you won’t soon forget. You’ll probably be whistling that santoor part all day, so you might as well accept it.

This is a beautiful and grandiose Coldplay song that stands among the best for me. I think it’s worthy to be placed among some of their more popular songs and I hope that you think so too. This is a song for really anyone who listens to any alternative or just likes bright music that catches you off guard. I mean, who hasn’t heard of Coldplay in this day and age anyway?

Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave a comment about what you thought of the song and review!

#55 – Recognize

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Artist – Flaw
Album – Endangered Species
Year – 2004
Genre – Nu-Metal

Now here’s a band that I’ve pulled from the recesses of the early 2000’s. Flaw is a nu-metal band that has always stuck out to me for one reason. Lead singer Chris Volz has one of the best voices I’ve heard in Nu-metal. Period. He’s certainly got a harshness to him, but that is most definitely not the case with this song. Instead, his absolutely wonderful clean vocals take center stage for this introspective song that Volz takes from ordinary to extraordinary.

The song has a melancholic, depressive tone from the very start. The strange, distorted guitar begins the song on a gloomy note and the drumstick keeps time against the snare. Then Volz begins to sing. As soon as you hear it, you’ll know why I separate it from most other singers in his genre. It’s melodic and clean enough that he could sing in pop if he wanted to, but yet it’s got that bit of roughness and edge that keeps the honesty in what he’s singing.

The melody starting from the verses and going all the way through to the chorus is superb. It’s very catchy for a metal track, and though the instruments may not stand out all that much, Volz keeps this track anchored with his honest and emotional vocals. Don’t get me wrong, the guitar adds some great chugging riffs when they’re needed as well as some great clean, distorted sounds, but to me the instruments serve to back up the voice in this track. The lyrics themselves in this song are emotional and introspective, but don’t particularly jump out to me. However, when Volz sings each and every chorus in this song, he weaves the melody in with the lyrics in such a way that it sounds absolutely beautiful.

The bridge really builds the tense and sad emotion as the singing gets more and more agitated and the guitar chugs pick up in pace. When the last choruses come around, Volz lets it all out. The last chorus especially is a treat to hear, and it gave me chills when Volz hits the high notes. The ending of the track features Volz showing off his voice one last time with some nice little vocal runs and a soft, quiet ending as per the mood of the track. You’ll be left feeling ready to listen again for his voice alone.

I said this long ago, and you can judge me if you want: Chris Volz is the Josh Groban of Nu-Metal. Seriously though, if you don’t believe me, you have to hear Recognize. This is a song both for the nu-metal fans looking for a new band or song (because I bet you haven’t heard of either Flaw or this song) or for anyone who really appreciate great emotional vocals and great vocal talent. Who would have thought it would be found in the strangest of places.

Let me know what you think of the song and review in the comments!