Tag Archives: Paul McCartney

The Top 10 Songs of 2013 – Preview

5 Dec

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Rejoice! The Music Court is bringing back the end-of-the-year Top 10 song list. Hooray. It’s the highlight of any holiday season! Ok … maybe it’s just some reading fodder that you can scoff at when you binge on holiday leftovers. For the rest of December, the Music Court will feature our list of the top 10 songs of 2013.

Check out the full-song in-review of The Top 10 Songs of 2010 and The Top 10 Songs of 2011 by clicking on those links, or click on the subcategories on the right-hand side of this page to view individual posts. There is no 2012 list (sorry!)

First, some logistics prior to previewing the list. In order to be considered for this list, the song must have been released in 2013. Yes, this seems obvious. But when I say 2013, I mean that the song may have been released as a single in 2013, or if it was not released as a single, it must have appeared on an album released in 2013. Often songs are released on albums the year prior to when the song is released as a single. This simply provides us with more options.

This list is clearly subjective. It is completely biased to the taste of those at the Music Court. That being said, you can certainly berate us for getting everything wrong. That’s the fun part of these lists. Comment on rankings you disagree with. Give us your top 10! We want to hear from you. Also, please understand that I (Matt) am not the biggest rap/hip-hop fan. Thus, the list is skewed towards pop/folk/rock (my beloved genres). There is a rap song on the list, though. I promise.

So … what songs almost made it on to the list but couldn’t quite supplant any of the top 10 songs? Here is the list leading up to the top 10:

19. “A Song about Love” by Jake Bugg

18. “Afterlife” by Arcade Fire

17. “Southern United States” by Leif Vollebekk

16. “Winter Road” by Bill Callahan

15. “New” by Paul McCartney

14. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke

13. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk

12. “365 Days” by ZZ Ward

Robin-Thicke-Blurred-Lines-Ft-TI-Pharrell

Get_Lucky

But, how? “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” were arguably the two most popular songs in 2013. They should most certainly appear on the top 10 list. You must have something against Pharrell Williams, who is featured in both songs. Credit to Pharrell, by the way. What an amazing year! In June he became the 12th musician in history to hold the #1 and #2 spot on the Billboard Top 100 at the same time … and for two COMPLETELY different songs. Incredible. But, while both songs fall close to the top 10, I do not just go by mainstream success. Both songs are as infectious as chocolate-covered pretzels, but, to me, the top 10 songs all have more enlightened qualities.

And … just missing the top 10. The #11 song of 2013:

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Know the lyric? It is “Demons” by Imagine Dragons, which many of you know because of it was overplayed on mostly all rock stations since it was released as an official single in October of this year. The lyric of the song is powerful; a clear depiction of a protagonist with pernicious flaws. It is somewhat hidden behind the crashing melodies and dramatic harmonies, but the music is just so good. Imagine Dragons certainly knows how to intertwine a catchy melody with hard rock sentiments. It’s a great song. Can you imagine the excellent stuff on the top 10 list?

Be Tuned in on Monday, Dec. 9 for the #10 song on the list! 

Art Decade Transforms Symphonic Rock

27 Jan

Art Decade

Whenever I first hear a band that does not conform to the bromidic classifications of a normal rock genre, I immediately explore some category to place the band in, although such a fastidious task is often misguided. Not all bands fit any category though. Such is the case for Boston-based Art Decade, the spawn of the Berklee School of Music mixed with pop overtones.

Art Decade is different, and I like change. Different, though, is only one part of new, exciting music. The tunes need to be good. Fortunately, Art Decade has this covered. On my first listen through their debut album, Western Sunrise, I was immediately shocked by the maturity and complexity of the compositions, but this confusion was satisfied when I observed the talent producing the music (more on this later).

Art Decade is to the 21st century what Electric Light Orchestra/Queen was to the Classic Rock genre. ELO and Queen were some of the pioneers of Symphonic Rock bands of the 1970s. This sub-genre evolved from the Progressive Rock movement (encompassing such bands at the Moody Blues and Emerson Lake & Palmer). Symphonic rock, though, took the sound of Prog/Rock and focused attention to modeling classical compositions and instrumentation and musical complexity. ELO, led by the venerable Jeff Lynne, took this concept and added pop melodies. Thus, the music was intelligent and accessible. Queen also emerged from Prog/Rock and added its own flavor on Symphonic Rock.

Flash forward to the late 20th century and early 21st century, and power/pop bands like Fun, Muse, Guided By Voices, Fountains of Wayne, and Keane bathe listeners with a wall of pop rhythms. Fun, specifically, focuses on creating a world of theatrical pop, an ode to the upbeat sounds of ELO and Queen.

Art Decade has combined Symphonic Rock and Power Pop into an amalgamated super genre of Classical Rock/Pop, which, although some may label it as Indie, is far more compound. The music is multifaceted and intelligent. It is effervescent and enjoyable. It has elements of hard rock, classical music, pop, and a whole lot more pushed into tracks, like a clown car of material – 15 clowns get out and you are wondering how the band fit so many elements into their music. And its clean. It is so tight and well manufactured. It is skillful.

It also makes sense considering that Art Decade’s guitarist/vocalist/arranger Ben Talmi grew up on a diet of classical music and attended Berklee School of Music.

“A strong musical education can do many things to a musician, oftentimes people become jaded with their acquired musical knowledge, becoming frustrated with the state of popular music and its general lack of musical depth,” said Talmi in a press release for Art Decade’s debut release. “Others are unable to escape the education and end up producing very indulgent and selfish music. I truly hope to take what I have learned and apply it in a very mature way.”

“Western Sunrise” is a multifarious piece that implements several classical elements into waves of remarkable instrumentation and mellifluous sounds culminating in a repeated diapason; all wrapped up neatly by a powerful vocal and music video that plays with the ocean motif and a colorful, pointillism-like construction. Oh, and it’s accessible for all ears. The song features so many elements that at some points I think I am listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra and at other points I think I am listening to Keane. The music oscillates with such precision. I must credit the entire band for this magical composition.

Here is the Pt. 2 of “Western Sunrise,” another sprawling symphonic piece that flows with creative strings, vocals, piano, and other instrumentation. In some ways I am reminded a bit of Paul McCartney’s work with Wings. 

I am excited to hear more from Art Decade, a band that I’m sure you all will be hearing more about in the future.

Check out their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Taking Us Back to the Start – Alex Hulme

26 Jul

Alex Hulme

Liverpool based singer-songwriter Alex Hulme played for Sir Paul McCartney this year and Sir Paul enjoyed his performance. I can pretty much wrap up my review of the 21-year-old blonde shaggy-haired acoustic performer with that. Sir Paul isn’t usually wrong. I won’t close up my profile of Mr. Hulme that quickly, though, and I can assure you that the former Beatle certainly got it right with Hulme. His clean, breezy voice breaks through in his summer pop hit, “The Start,” just released on July 16. The song, like his voice, is refreshingly palatable, a simple catchy pop tune with solid production value.

Hulme is an artist who will certainly become more popular once he releases some more material. His youth plays to his favor in this respect. At this point in his young career, Hulme’s natural vocal talents are most impressive. His chops are subtly powerful and genuine. His looks are not going to hurt him either. He looks straight out of a  Nickelodeon boyband. And don’t interpret that as an insult. He is good-looking and has an infectious tone to his voice. Those are two elements that can take him very far. You can purchase his new EP The Start on his Bandcamp.

I want to provide one more song for your listening pleasure. This is without production. It is simply Hulme and his acoustic guitar busking in a shopping area in Liverpool. I’m doing this so you can just see how naturally fine and mature Hulme’s voice is.

It is a vibrant, ebullient performance, and Hulme doesn’t let back. He belts out the song to the passerbys, and it is this candid performance that excites me more about Hulme’s future prospects in music. He has raw talent, and, for many modern musicians, that is something to be said.

You can find out more about Alex Hulme on his Facebook and Twitter

Making the Town Hall Like Home – Colin Hay 4/29/12

29 Apr

It made complete sense that Colin Hay performed at Town Hall in New York City’s Times Square. Town Hall, an intimate theater between Sixth and Broadway, sits around 1,500 people comfortably in warm colors. It is not so much a concert venue, but rather a true theater that fits in with the several Broadway buildings it borders. So, appropriately Colin Hay fit right in with the setting, entertaining the crowd with anecdotes and sprinkled badinage between songs. And, the fact that he performed the show in honor of former Men at Work bandmate Greg Ham who passed away only 10 days ago, just made the night more special for those who had the privilege of seeing the Scottish/Australian acoustic crooner.

What is so striking about a Colin Hay concert is his effortless eloquence. He is a smooth talker and his Australian-influenced brogue gives his words extra power that on Friday resounded through the theater. Hay is the very definition of a troubador, telling his engaging life story through a set list mostly devoted to his chronological development. You felt at home with Hay, like he was one of your buddies and you were sitting around at a backyard barbecue. Strike up the grill, put on some portobello mushrooms (he is a vegetarian like myself), tell stories, and play tunes. It is a comfortable formula, and with it Hay made Town Hall feel like home.

Before Hay came on stage, the crowd was buttered up by acoustic singer/songwriter Ryan Montbleau, who kidded with the audience about his insecurities while diving into his short set of well-developed pieces. The music was creative and refreshing and I will not say more now because Montbleau will be featured on the Music Court within the coming weeks.

Then, with the sounds of “Down Under,” and the voice over by a passionate individual stating that Hay saved his life from washed-down pop music (after he heard Hay’s music on the Garden State soundtrack and the television show Scrubs), Hay walked on stage in a sharp coat and said hello to the audience, immediately engaging in a running dialogue (even though he couldn’t hear well with his ear plugs) that represented up his charm, intelligence, and humor.

Hay told several stories under the roof of the Town Hall in between songs, and some stories (most) worked to set up music. For example he described how he wrote “Beautiful World” while in California detoxing from his Australian-influenced alcoholic ways. He then described how he knew an individual who sang the song out in the Pacific and then was gnawed at by a shark who clearly enjoyed the piece. As Hay said during the show, the person kept singing the song and it was as if the shark said, ‘I may eat you, but, give me a few more verses of that song.”

The stories were well-timed and humorous, but the music was clearly why everyone came to watch Mr. Hay perform (even though his stories could have carried a separate performance in and of itself), and the tunes were wonderful.

Hay toggled between old Solo material, Men at Work music, and work off his newest album Gathering Mercury. The mix included “Who Can it Be Now,” “Send Somebody,” “Maggie,” etc. and then a 4-song conclusion that, like a molten chocolate cake, closed out the night with perfection. This included my favorite Hay piece, “Waiting for my Real Life to Begin” and an excellent, picked version of “Overkill.”

A performance from Maine in 2010. Hay finished off the show with a song he and Ham wrote and it, as anticipated, started a wonderful sing along. Here is “Be Good Johnny.”

Before I post this, I want to post one more story that Hay told that I thought was hilarious. He talked of how he became friends with Paul McCartney when he was performing his solo material in California. Growing up idolizing the Beatles, this was quite extraordinary for Hay. He tells the story of McCartney coming over for dinner and how he had two moments to himself during the night. The first was when McCartney arrived and Hay couldn’t believe Paul McCartney was in his driveway. The second was after dinner, when McCartney took the dishes into the kitchen and started running them under water, sparking the realization that Paul McCartney was doing his dishes.

🙂 – One more for good measure. Here is “Beautiful World”

1966 Revolves around Revolver

16 Apr

WINNER

#3 Seed: Revolver

Take the Rolling Stones top 500 albums list for what it is – a subjective list of “game-changing” albums culminating (like most all-time album charts) with Sgt. Peppers at top – but prior to discussing how a 3-seed defeated #1-seeded Pet Sounds handily in the finals, I want to talk briefly about the Rolling Stones list. After Sgt. Peppers, the list goes Pet Sounds (2) and Revolver (3). First, isn’t it extraordinary that three of the greatest rock albums ever released hit record stores in around a 13-month span of time? Secondly, perhaps I misjudged Revolver. I recognized it as an inspirational album that, like Pet Sounds, revolutionized the sound of rock n’ roll music and helped introduce a generation to psychedelic music, but perhaps I underestimated its true force and influence.

Revolver may be #3 on the Rolling Stone list, but, according to our poll’s small sample, the top two albums ever released should maybe go Sgt. Peppers followed by Revolver, which would be representative of how incomprehensibly talented the Beatles were. In 10 months the band released two of the greatest albums ever. This is unparalleled in music and it is tough to find an equivalent in any form of talent, creativity, or sport. Mozart in his prime. There is one!

I voted for Pet Sounds. So did three others. The Beatles won 8-4 after sliding through the entire competition. This means that they, according to Music Court viewers, released the best album in 1966 and 1967. So how did this 3-seed take down the uber-talented Beach Boys and their Pet Sounds. Both bands were experimenting with tape delays, creative instrumentation and recording techniques, manipulated vocals, and drugs. Both bands tapped into the minds of all band members to create a unified sound that translated into excellent music. What was the difference besides the roots of the bands (surf vs. bluesy beat)?

The answer is simple. Nothing. Yes, the songs do sound different because the two bands are, well, clearly different, but as for impact and experimentation, there is really no difference. Revolver and Pet Sounds are near perfect albums (I reserve the title of perfect for two albums – Sgt. Peppers and Dark Side of the Moon). The Beatles are more popular so they may have won because of that, but, supposing that is not the reason, I want to look at two songs that may have helped propel Revolver to victory.

“Eleanor Rigby”

“Eleanor Rigby” is one of the most known and popular Beatles songs ever released and I think one of the reasons for this (besides the fact that it is just an excellent song) is it is so different. The song is carried by the staccato rhythm of a backing orchestra that sounds like it is narrating a tense scene in a horror movie (at times – the orchestra was inspired by the compositions of Bernard Herrmann – “Psycho”). Besides this, the song is just Paul McCartney singing with the occasional harmony. The lyric, which was created in a conjoined band effort, is just perfect. It paints a sad and simple image of the “lonely” Eleanor Rigby and her life and death. It is an untraditional rock song, not featuring any other instrumentation, yet it is wonderfully melodic and incredibly popular. The Beatles were changing the ears of a listening populace.

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

This song is not anywhere near simple. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is an Indian-inspired composition that features several psychedelic effects like tape delay, oddly patterned drumming, reversed guitar, and droning vocals. The song features the psychedelic works. It is an LSD-influenced dreamy ending that leads right into Sgt. Peppers, an album that features even more of this musical experimentation (which is pretty much what this song is). But, because this is the Beatles, the song is excellent and highly listenable.

So what do you think? Does Revolver deserve the title? Do you want to see this game played next year (and with what year?) I’m eager to hear your opinions. Thanks for playing!

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