Tag Archives: Rock

We Don’t Deserve Everything Now – New Arcade Fire

31 Jul

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Arcade Fire, the uber-eccentric Canadian Indie Rock band, released its fifth studio album last Friday. The album follows the natural progression for Arcade Fire who embraced the dance rock feel with their last LP Reflektor. For Everything Now the band brought in Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and the sound reflects this collaboration.

Arcade Fire and I have a volatile relationship. I embrace a few of their tracks, placing those songs in the rare coterie of “listenable no matter what,” but there are many tracks that just fall flat to me. Hence, I judge Arcade Fire releases accordingly. Everything Now features a few absolute clunkers – dance rock needs to be pretty infectious for me to enjoy it and, well, several of the tracks on this album just don’t do it for me. That said, I will say that Arcade Fire’s focus on lyrics this album was a big success, and I enjoy the theme. The big release is the title track, which serves as the central motif for the album – its melody opens and closes the record. Here is the track below:

Sensationally catchy, right? That melody is toe-tapping goodness. The sampling of “The Coffee Cola Song” by Francis Bebey works well – I always appreciate some well-placed pan flute in music. The song is even electric in lyric – “Every song that I’ve ever heard
is playing at the same time, it’s absurd” – a Delillo-like wall-of-sound image. The song is one of Arcade Fire’s finest since The Suburbs. However, it is not the best song on the album. That is reserved for the song that closes out the album (putting aside the reprisal of the title track).

I’m not sure why “We Don’t Deserve Love” has not received more attention in the critic’s reviews of the album. Perhaps it is the type of song that will grow on listeners. For me, though, the song’s significance hit immediately – this track is Arcade Fire’s most sincere in years – a true testament to the excellent band that Arcade Fire is when it gets down to its Indie roots. The song’s electric rhythm calls to Radiohead’s most recent release – a bit morose but eclectically beautiful. The dulcet and eerie melody reflects the lyric perfectly – a song about trying to persist with a loving connection in a sea of confusion and mixed messages. Consider the lyric below:

The men you love always leave you alone
You hear your mother screaming
You hear your daddy shout
You try to figure it out
You never figure it out
Your mother’s screaming
That you don’t deserve love
If you don’t deserve love
And if I don’t deserve love
Could we deserve?

The string of lyrics are telling and the rhetorical question at the end is so sad but oddly hopeful because who the heck cares if one “deserves” love – love is love – even in the infinite content wasteland portrayed in Arcade Fire’s album. Through its warped melody is clarity and that seems like an eloquent concluding message for the album.

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Dan Auerbach is the King of a One Horse Town

20 Jun

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There is something quite old about Dan Auerbach’s second solo studio album Waiting on a Song (June 2017), and I like it. Auerbach, who is the guitarist and vocalist for The Black Keys, has not released a solo album since Keep it Hid (2009), and this new release is certainly different – more modern in its year and more oldies in its sound. It comes as no surprise that Easy Eye Sound (Auerbach’s new record label) holds the catchy slogan “Good Sound Comes Back Around.” Auerbach, though, is able to toe the line between copying the sound he wants to pay tribute to and creating new variations on that sound. So, yes, while Waiting on a Song would have fit the record players of long-haired 1970s-era teens, it still holds a uniquely modern spin that attracts listeners of all ages.

On a track-by-track sample of the album, George Harrison pops into mind, especially with “Shine on Me,” a lively guitar-driven ditty that was one of George Harrison’s staples during his post-Beatles solo career.

The song is carried by its rhythm, jaunty percussion matched with fragmented guitar strumming. Auerbach’s lyric matches the rhythm, persistent with its mention of smiling and shining. It’s almost a bit mawkish, but thankfully there is a brief riff that brings the song back to Earth. It’s a ditty of the finest variety and while I know many Auerbach/Black Keys fans are accustomed to a dirtier blues sound, this deviation is welcome, as it credits a time when music balanced fun and talent.

“King of a One Horse Town” is a bit more traditional Black Keys, but it takes the sooty blues and replaces it with a distorted spaghetti western. The song fits the soundtrack theme with its ethereal echoes and orchestral melodies. The way the twang is balanced by the string motif is masterful, and Auerbach’s vocals fit the piece neatly. It’s another original testament to songs from back in the day.

 

Top 10 Songs of 2016 – #10: “Ain’t No Man” by The Avett Brothers

24 Dec

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It is apropos that we begin this year’s countdown with a song off The Avett Brothers’ aptly-titled 9th studio album True Sadness. While the clamor labeling 2016 as one of the worst years in recent memory is a bit hyperbolic and overstated, The Avett Brothers’ hometown of North Carolina is no longer classified as a Democracy any longer, so perhaps there is legitimacy to those hoping 2016 let’s the door hit it on its way out in a week. That said, music in 2016 was at least halfway decent, and that means the annual Music Court’s Top 10 Songs countdown is underway. So, in a year of mostly downs, I bring you song number 10.

“Ain’t No Man” is carried by the best bass riff of the year. It is easily the best. The jaunty bass is splashed with clapping percussion and the jocular harmonic jabs of Scott and Seth Avett and Bob Crawford, the purveyor of the aforementioned bass riff. The song is the genius of the Avetts, fit with an in-studio genesis from the musically-inclined brothers (oddly enough not the only brothers on the list).  The song stomps with a confident and bold lyric, which I’d say is needed to be listened to on repeat over the next week prior to entering the new year. Here’s the chorus:

There ain’t no man that can save me
There ain’t no man that can enslave me
Ain’t no man or men that can change the shape my soul is in
There ain’t nobody here
Who can cause me pain or raise my fear ’cause I got only love to share
If you’re looking for truth I’m proof you’ll find it there

It is akin to puzzle pieces connecting when a lyric fits a song. The potent, positive message just reflects the song’s joyful instrumental revelry. It is a ditty, topping out at 3:30 soaking wet, and it feels even quicker than that, so, take it from me, the song is best listened to on repeat.

#9 soon to come …

Black Sabbath Blazes Jones Beach – 8/17/16

25 Aug
of Black Sabbath perform onstage at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on August 18, 2016 in Wantagh, New York.

Black Sabbath perform onstage at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on August 18, 2016 in Wantagh, New York. Credit Getty Images

On the concert poster that supports Black Sabbath’s “The End” farewell 80-date tour an inferno encompasses the Northern Hemisphere of Earth. That includes the south shore of Long Island that at times this summer has felt a bit like the portrayed firestorm. On August 17, Black Sabbath started the second leg of the North America swing of its farewell tour at Jones Beach Theater and with the help of 15,000 raucous fans set the beach ablaze (figuratively, of course) with a vehement and booming show.

Before I get to breaking down Sabbath, let’s start with the turn out. I’ve been to plenty of concerts at Jones Beach, and I’ve never seen it as crowded as it was that night. The turn out was a fascinating mix of black-clad Sabbath fans. The mark of a great band is its ability to attract a range of fans, and Sabbath has developed that loyal following over the 45+ years of existence. The opening act was a band I had the opportunity to profile back in February. You can check that out by following that link. The band was an excellent choice as an opening act. Rival Sons plays a style of Southern Rock injected with heavy metal vocals and instrumentals. Back in February I wrote that the band features “old-style rock n’ roll music with a keen blues sound, driving percussion, and raspy vocals,” but after seeing them live I’d like to emend those descriptions, and add that the band can also crush a lick and headbang with the metal bunch. Rival Sons is an original sound, and you should check them out. Plus, the keys/synth player has an Amish-style beard that is all kinds of awesome.

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                   He’s the one on the left but you can’t really see the mega beard

Black Sabbath played a 14-song set in around 2 hours. The set featured the classics, but the band dispersed the hits throughout the nights, which was kind of them: I hate when bands wait until the last three songs to play the top hits. After a dystopic video opening (the video was a cool supplement throughout the show except for when it stopped working for around 15 minutes, but what are you going to do), Black Sabbath came out to the apropos “Black Sabbath,” and Ozzy, the grand master of wicked ceremonies, greeted the crowd with an energy that can be best described as effervescence. Throughout the night, he bounced around the stage, throwing up his hands to rile up the crowd, and leading several call-and-response lyric and clap sessions. He even prostrated twice and professed his love for the fans. He was Ozzy at his finest, and he made it explicitly clear how much he enjoys to be on stage. The concert must have also been joyous for Tony Iommi, who was diagnosed with the early stages of lymphona in 2012 but announced only a few days prior to the concert that his cancer was in remission. Iommi is a wonderful guitarist, and he proved it with his usual stage adeptness and fretboard adroitness that he has had his entire career. Also, let’s give love to Geezer Butler whose bass is not made with any animal products; he is a strict vegan (which I find excellent as a vegetarian and husband to a vegan). Butler mans a potent bass guitar, and did so throughout the concert. The rest of Black Sabbath is keyboardist Adam Wakeman, who strangely played the role of man behind the curtain, as he was not actually visible on stage; Ozzy said it was because he was too ugly, but I think the massive amplifiers blocked him, and session drummer Tommy Clufetos, who played a sick drum solo during “Rat Salad” that gave the rest of the band a piss and water break, and entertained the crowd thoroughly.

All-in-all, what else can I say. Black Sabbath was tremendous. The crowd loved every second of the show. It was a riotous affair. Yes, Ozzy, we had fun. Excellent show. Get tickets to this one if you can.

Native Gold Presents Dualistic Sound In Track Fickle

28 Jun

Native Gold brings their alternative and electronic sound right to the forefront of listener’s ears when listening to their soon to be released EP A Man We All Admire. Fickle sounds very similar to Frou Frou, Menomena, and Radiohead all wrapped in one group. With heavy electronic and static tones to their music, qualities of those groups all seem to find a way through their overall sound to music aficionados. With a progressive and alternative rock feel to the track Fickle, Native Gold presents their sound in a dualistic nature to listeners. Other tracks on their EP, A Man We All Admire, sound equally synthesized, simply highlighting their carved out tone for the continuity among the tracks. An emphasis on the words and meaning of overall fickleness makes the song haunting and intentionally melancholic. Native Gold will bring listeners in another world with their evolving, yet otherworldly sound.

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