Music On

“You say you want it

but you can’t get in,

You’ve got yourself a bad habit”

-The Kooks, Bad Habit

It’s time to bring music back to tha blog! For unexplained and unexamined reasons, I haven’t posted about one of my favorite things on the planet in a while. Anyways, let’s get to it!

The Brits have been putting out some good stuff these days. Arctic Monkeys had the best album of 2014. Royal Blood is currently exploding with their new album. Alt-J just released their sophomore album. Good stuff happening across the pond.

When I heard The Kooks new song Bad Habit, I was instantly hooked. A hand-clapping opening, vocals that crack slightly, a little dapple of a falsetto. It’s danceable rock. It’s fun. It will have you wanting to move…

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I spent a little quality time with The Kooks on YouTube watching videos and live performances. And now I’m a fan. Luke Pritchard has a –dare I say- Mick Jagger type of presence when performing. If they come anywhere near the southeastern U.S. I will be seeing them live for sure. Until then, I’ll crank up the music and enjoy. Hope you like it too. If you do, head on over to tha ‘Tube and check out Forgive & Forget, Down and  Around Town.

As always, listen to it loud…

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 “Every now and then I see your face from way back when and I explode,

Friends no longer egg me on, they bullshit serenade me like it’s gold, how then we’re told.

I’m praying for some laughter, maybe joy forever after ’til I die,

I’m hungry for a change, I got my fill of other’s pain, I realized,

Opened my eyes.”

-The Black Keys, In Our Prime

I titled this series “Playing On Repeat” because the music I profile here is literally playing over and over- on my phone, in my car, while I’m writing, while I’m cooking. That’s what I do when I get really excited about new music. It is the criteria for me writing about music under this banner. And that’s what I’ve been doing with the new album released by The Black Keys on Tuesday.

Dan and Pat have an impressive catalogue of music. They’ve put out great songs. Eight solid albums, each one stacked. Gritty blues songs with soulful growling vocals, hard hitting drums, and the guitar. Seriously, the guitar. Dan Auerbach is one of the best guitar players in music today. In my opinion, among the best in rock period. My favorite stuff by the band has always been their earlier stuff. The music made by just two guys. But Turn Blue may be their best album yet. And thank god, because El Camino didn’t exactly light my fire.

Turn Blue goes deeper. It is raw and charged with angst. It’s still the blues, just a slicker version of the blues. I’m a huge fan of Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) who co-produced and co-wrote this album, in addition to Attack and Release and El Camino and the single Tighten Up. And Burton’s knack, talent, genius for melding genres and styles is evident on this album. You can’t put it in one category, you can’t pinpoint one influence or sound. It’s a beautiful prism of sound.

The album starts off with Weight of Love. This song thrusts you almost immediately into a guitar solo. Seven minutes that’s more of a journey than a song. A haunting intro gives away to sweltering guitar. Then brief, poignant lyrics are  met with a torrid guitar solo. Two minutes of brilliance. The longest solo perhaps on a Keys album. This is what fans have been yearning for, needing to hear from Dan Auerbach. And he gives it to us on the opener.

The single Turn Blue, immediately brings to mind a ’70s California sunset. Just a touch of a Hotel California vibe. Dan’s vocals are some of the most versatile. At once smokey and bluesy (rappers who collaborated on BlakRoc were shocked to find out he was white) and the next an effortless falsetto. On this song it’s that falsetto that takes the reigns. The music is smooth and serves as a backdrop for the pain that emanates from the lyrics, from the vocals.

Fever is a jaunty radio friendly tryst. It’s fun. It’s sound belies the pain in the lyrics. I love the disparity. “Now if the cold pale light in your eyes reaches those horizon lines, You know not to leave her.”

It’s Up To You starts with a raucous drum, a big band sound. The song turns aggressive when the lyrics come in. The second half of the song is an insolent, dirty guitar. One of the heaviest I’ve heard on a Keys album. And it will be jaw-dropping live. My only complaint is the solo isn’t long enough. It gives you a taste but leaves you wanting more.

Strangely, my favorite song is the one that takes the focus off the guitar. Waiting On Words is about the chorus.  The layered vocals fluctuate between soft and tender to insistet and assertive . Punctuated with an off-key surf style guitar. The lilt in the chorus is stirring. It swells with emotion, the infusion of pain so vulnerable and accessible. “Goodbye, I heard you were leaving, Won’t try changing your mind, Goodbye, don’t know where you’re going. The only thing I really know, My love for you was real.”

In Our Prime is the soul. It is the gut wrenching heart-bleed of the album. The retro piano intro conjures images of a flickering old reel to reel home movie. The tape flutters off the reel as the song indicates a less than happy ending. “Pour me down the drain I disappear, like every honest thing I used to hear.” There’s no pretense, the lyrics go right to the source of the injury. The song exorcises it’s demons of being wronged before an organ fueled ramp-up. The song gives way to a guitar solo that echoes as if hearing it live. The sordid details play out via guitar strings as it eventually fades away in despair and exhaustion. It’s tragic and bewitching, the sum of it all. This is the guts on the paper, the truth and the purging. It’s real and you feel it.

(photo: Danny Clinch)

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Well, thank you sir. Thank you for not disappointing. Thank you for changing things up, but still retaining that you-ness that is so… you.

High Ball Stepper starts off with a high pitched chorus, followed by a short piano interlude. Then comes the bass, signature Jack White staccato guitar and drum rhythm. I dare you to listen and not have some part of your body pulsing right along with the beat. Then comes the electric assault. Sweet relief of a full-on plugged-in raw and gritty guitar. Revel in this, all that is good and bad in a good way about rock. And just when you think it can’t get any dirtier, there’s an explosion of fuzzy guitar muddied with reverb and wailing. It’s a tumultuous ride, this High Ball Stepper.

I implore you, play it loud. Plug in some headphones, listen to it in your car, but turn it up until you feel it. As always, enjoy…

 

jw

“How you gonna stop yourself,

When your man stops ringing your bell

You’re right between heaven and hell

 And you’re gonna need the good Lord to help you.”

-The Raconteurs, Top Yourself

gen-ius (jeen– yuh s): noun, plural  Creating music that is original. That rocks. That pushes the boundaries of what came before. Ever-evolving: Musically, lyrically, stylistically. (see Hendrix, Lennon)

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a “Jack White Week” on this here blog. I’m really not up for committing to doing anything for a whole week. So I’m just going to occasionally post, in no certain order, some of my favorite Jack White tunes. I don’t have “a” favorite. That would be like asking me which of my children is my favorite. The answer is different depending on which day you ask me.

Multi-talented. Guitar player. Drummer (did you know that the drums are his favorite instrument to play? So when he is slaying with his guitar, that’s just his “other” instrument that he likes to play). Lyricist. Performer. Collaborator. Genius. I am a fan of any incarnation of Mr. White: The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, or just Jack White.

“Top Yourself” is from The Raconteurs second album, Consolers of the Lonely. A little bluegrass, a little rock, a little funk. The song toggles between ominous and threatening to a head-shaking lament. Then it works itself up into a frenzy when the piano starts banging out an angry climax at the end. Enjoy…

Broken Bells, The Tabernacle Atlanta, GA
Broken Bells, The Tabernacle Atlanta, GA

“She found herself in a world full of men
Watching them slowly destroy all her plans
‘Cause all the love she won’t allow
Herself to even dream about
Well both of us are older now, and it won’t be long
The early morning siren
Is growing louder now
‘Cause waking up is hard enough when there’s no one else around”

-Broken Bells, The Angel and the Fool

Have you ever had someone in your life who just made you feel good? And I don’t mean in that way. I mean, someone who brought a little bit of zen and peace into your world. Someone who seemed to float through life with a sense of contentment and serenity. Being around them made you feel relaxed, calm, happy. This is how I felt recently. At a concert.

Last week me and my man got to sneak away for a one night trip to Atlanta to see Broken Bells. I had been looking forward to this show for months. I knew it would be different from the concerts we’re used to seeing. I’ve said before that Broken Bells is their own genre of music. A little bit electronic. Yet warm and organic. A seamless blending of styles. Melancholy that soars. Sounds that swirl together to create something euphoric. And the lyrics. My god, the lyrics.

James Mercer (The Shins) and Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) have something special that happens when they come together to make music. A seemingly effortless melding of two Indie/Alternative music icons. This concert felt more like an experience. It wasn’t showmanship or effects. It was just music. But it was more than just music. It was a journey to someplace transcendent. It was beautiful. It was groovy, it was fun. It was my happy place. “The High Road”, off of their first album is one of my favorite songs ever. “Holding on For Life” is one of many gems off the new album, After the Disco. But after seeing the concert, “The Angel and the Fool” has been rippling through my mind and I can’t shake it. I don’t want to shake it. I hope you like it too…

https://gretchenkelly73.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/10-the-angel-and-the-fool.m4a

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Pull back the curtains and took a look into your eyes, my tongue has now become a platform for your lies

-Cage the Elephant, Back Against the Wall

I am posting all the lyrics for this one. Because there is no singling out of the best line. It is all pretty genius. And if you have the chance to see Cage the Elephant live… well, you must. It’s a crazy blend of energy and mayhem and pure adrenaline. We saw them on a one night trip to Vegas. They were opening up for The Black Keys. My husband (Joe) and I rode up in the elevator of the hotel with the band before the show. Joe chatted it up with them while I sat there with a stoopid grin on my face. The called me “Ma’am”….  A’hem, anyways…  They put on an insane show. Matt (lead singer) crowd surfed out of the building. The lyrics to this song read like a poetry slam and it rocks. Enjoy.

Back Against The Wall

Tonight I’ll have a look
And try to find my face again
Buried beneath this house
My spirit screams and dies again
Out back a monster wears a cloak of Persian leather
Behind the TV screen I’ve fallen to my knees
 I said you got me where you want me again
And I can’t turn away
I’m hangin’ by a thread and I’m feelin’ like a fool
I’m stuck here in between the shadows of my yesterday
I want to get away, I need to get away
Blanket of silence makes me want to sink my teeth in deep
Burn all the evidence of fabricated disbelief  
Pull back the curtains, took a look into your eyes
My tongue has now become a platform for your lies  
I said you got me where you want me again
And I can’t turn away
I’m hangin’ by a thread and I’m feelin’ like a fool
I’m stuck here in between
The shadows of my yesterday
I want to get away, I need to get away
Now you know, Yeah you got my back against the wall
Oh god I ain’t got no other place to hide, Chained down
Like a sitting duck just waiting for the fall
You know, yeah you got my back against the wall…
Deep in the jungle
Camouflaged by all the fallen leaves
A hand holds up the sky while shamefully I make my plea
The altar’s callin’ but my legs won’t seem to stand
Guess I’m a coward, scared to face the man I am
I said you got me where you want me again
And I can’t turn away
I’m hanging by a thread and I’m feeling like a fool
I’m stuck here in between the shadows of my yesterday
I want to get away, I need to get away
Now you know, Yeah you got my back against the wall
Oh god
I ain’t got no other place to hide
Chained down, like a sitting duck just waiting for the fall
You know, yeah you got my back against the wall

Now, you know, yeah you got my back against the wall,
Oh God, I ain’t got no other place to hide,
Chained down, like a sitting duck just waiting for the fall,
You know, yeah you got my back against the wall.

“Cause there’s a this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat…”

-Arctic Monkeys, Do I Wanna Know

I used to love making mixed tapes. I would make them for myself and for my friends. The ultimate was when a guy would make one for me, that was the way to my teenage heart. The last mix tape I made was actually a mix-CD for a friend who’d just had her heart broken. I always believed (and still do) that music heals. It helps you purge your demons when you’re angry, it helps you sort out your pain when you are going through a break up. It feeds that crazy energy you feel when you’re falling for someone. So, for you, I have put together a mix tape. There’s something for everyone. Love songs, Lust songs, Songs about heartbreak and songs for songs for the anger and bitterness for love gone bad. I hope you enjoy it and I hope it helps you get through this holiday of chocolate hearts and roses and cheesy cards.

Love Songs:

Sideways -Citizen Cope  “These feelings won’t go away, they’ve been knocking me sideways…”   Lovesong -Adele  “Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am free again”   Moondance -Van Morrison  “Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?”   Ain’t Nothing Like You -Blakroc  “Pure heart, you’re super cool, you’re live and elemental”   More Than Anything In This World  -Lenny Kravitz  “I  search the whole world, I want you to be my baby, baby…”  Little Wing -Jimi Hendrix  “When I’m sad she comes to me, with a thousand smile she gives to me free”   Like A Star -Corrine Bailey Rae  “You’ve got this look I can’t describe, you make me feel I’m alive”   Where Are You Going -Dave Matthews Band  “I do know where you go, that’s where I wanna be”   Afterglow -INXS  “Touch me and I will follow in your afterglow”   I Will Possess Your Heart -Death Cab for Cutie  “It’s like a book elegantly bound, but in a language you can’t read just yet”   A Girl Like You -The Smithereens  “I am yours and you are mine the way it should be”   Sirens – Pearl Jam “I pull you close, so much to lose, knowing that nothing lasts forever”   Running On Faith – Eric Clapton “Then we’d go running on faith, all of our dreams would come true, and our world would be right, when love comes over me and you..”

Lust Songs

Hush -Deep Purple “She’s got lovin’ like quicksand, only took one touch of my hand”        I Want Some More -Dan Auerbach “I’m just a kid in your walking candy store”       Mistify -INXS “Some silken moment, goes on forever”    Lessons In Love -Neon Trees “All day all night, I got the lights in my eyes, and I’m fallen’ for you”   Crush Crush Crush -Paramore “Rock and roll baby, don’t you know that we’re all alone now, give me something to sing about”    Straight On -Heart “I’ve got to play my hand, what the winner don’t know, the gambler understands”    Gypsy Eyes -Jimi Hendrix “Well I realize that I’ve been hypnotized, I love your gypsy eyes”    Blunderbuss -Jack White “Doin’ what two people need is never on the menu”   Love Is Strong -The Rolling Stones “Love is strong and you’re so sweet, and someday baby we’ve got to meet”   Come Together -Sons of the Sea “I’d wait around with you for worse or better, but our halcyon days are few, it’s now or never”   Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is -Jet “She’s a loaded gun in my shaken’ hands, Am I in hell or the promised land”   Girl Is On My Mind -The Black Keys “Hold me close to you, not one thing that I would not do, if you would hold me close to you”    Do I Wanna Know -Arctic Monkeys  “Simmer down and pucker up, I’m sorry to interrupt, it’s just I’m constantly on the cusp of trying to kiss you”    RU Mine? -Arctic Monkeys “I guess what I’m trying to say is I need the deep end, I keep imagining meeting, wished away entire lifetimes, unfair we’re not somewhere misbehavin’ for days”    I Want You (She’s So Heavy) -The Beatles  “I want you, I want you so bad, it’s driving me mad”    Your Touch -The Black Keys “And I’ll be good, like I should, waiting and such, misery I need your touch”

Songs for the Heartbroken

I Don’t Know Why -Stevie Wonder “I don’t know why I love you, but I love you baby”  All I Ever Wanted -Lenny Kravitz “Are we even? When I know I want you and baby you want me”    Old Love -Eric Clapton “It’s making me so angry, to know that the flame still burns, Why can’t I get over, know now that I’ll never learn”    Too Late -No Doubt “And in time it will end, and there really isn’t hope for the two of us, but right now I give in”    Baby Came Home -The Neighbourhood  “She left me alone and without, skin I could study about”    Why I’m Here -Oleander “I can’t love you anymore, I’m scared of the sound of it, and woman I just wanted more”    Gone -In Sync  “Been sittin’ here, can’t get you off my mind, I’ve tried my best to be a man and be strong”     Ex Factor -Lauryn Hill “It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard, loving you is like a battle and we both end up with scars”    Too Afraid To Love You -The Black Keys “It’s heaven on earth in her embrace, a gentle touch and a smiling face. I’m just one wishing that I was a pair, with someone, oh somewhere”    Bell Bottom Blues -Derek and the Dominos “I don’t wanna lose this feelin’, and if I could choose a place to die it would be in your arms”

Songs For Love Gone Bad

Top Yourself -The Raconteurs “How you gonna do it alone when I don’t pick up my phone, I’ll give a dog a bone, but I’m not gonna stick around to help you”    Grounds for Divorce -Elbow “Doubt comes in on sticks but then he kicks like a horse”    Hell and Back -Airborne Toxic Event “I held on as long as I could possibly, my blind faith pushing me to my knees…”     Moneygrabber -Fitz and the Tantrums “Don’t come back anytime, I’ve already had your kind, this is your payback, Moneygrabber”    Hang Me Up To Dry -Cold War Kids “Now hang me up to dry, you’ve wrung me out too, too, too many times”  Hypocritical Kiss -Jack White “My temper got the best of me, and when I say that I mean I know that every single thing that I said was true”    Bittersweet Me -REM “I move across, candy floss, I move like a tank, I move across the room with a heart full of gloom, I’m stronger than you think”    The Best of You -Foo Fighters “I needed somewhere to hang my head without your noose, you gave me something I didn’t have, but had no use”    Don’t Gotta Work It Out -Fitz and the Tantrums “Baby, you’re gonna need the doctor’s care, to get you over me girl, look what you’ve done”  Hemorrhage -Fuel “Oh hold me now I feel contagious, Am I the only place that you’ve left to go?”    Out of the Black -Royal Blood “And I promised you, like you promised me, but those vows we made, we boxed them in for free”

“I was a movin’ man in my younger days, But I’ve grown out of my ramblin’ ways.

I left that road so far behind, now I know, oh babe, I got mine”

-The Black Keys, I Got Mine

About 4 years ago my husband and I had tickets to go see Kings of Leon with some friends. I was looking forward to the show, thinking it would be a fun summertime outdoor concert. We settled into our seats with our overpriced draft beer and started chatting with our friends as we waited for the show to start. I was talking to my friend when the opening band started playing. I rudely stopped mid-sentence and turned towards the stage. I watched, mouth open, as two guys ripped through a gristly blues rock number. A drummer and a guitar player worked about 15 square feet of stage, surrounded by equipment covered in tarps for the headlining band. As they moved into the next song I started nudging my husband, trying to get his attention. He was engrossed in conversation with his friend and ignoring my pokes and elbows. Finally, by about the third song I punched him in the shoulder. He needed to hear this. Two guys, bare bones, no effects, no stage show, barely room to move, and a sound so rich and full and loud… I was blown away.

I had heard of The Black Keys.  I had read about them in Rolling Stone [read me], but I hadn’t really taken the time to listen to their music. I have never been more grateful to go to a show I was apathetic about. They finished their all too short set and I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin. I was so excited about what I’d just heard, I was ready to leave before Kings of Leon even came on stage. That night when we got home I downloaded their entire catalogue.

To truly appreciate the genius that is Dan and Pat, you must see them live. We have seen them six times since then. One time was at a two day music festival with dozens of bands. I watched the people around us as the band took the stage. I watched them chatting during the first song or two of the set. I watched their faces as they began to realize what they were witnessing. I watched them nudge their friends, their heads starting to bob to the rhythm. By the closing song, even the people in line for the Porta Jons were bouncing up and down and rocking.

They close every show with “I Got Mine.” This is the best live performance I’ve ever seen. I can’t fully describe what happens to the room/arena/festival when they play this song, but two guys are up on a stage controlling a crowd. No fluff, no antics, no production. Just bad ass music. The way it should be. Watch this performance and get a taste for yourself…

photo- press, NME magazine
photo- press, NME magazine

“My eyes start to bleeding, from the southern smoke.  And ain’t nobody leaving, cause the shards will split your throat…”

-Black Lips, Boys In The Wood

This one’s a slow burner.  It brings to mind a swampy hot summer night swilling some brown liquid with some bad influence-types.  A slow southern drawl. A bluesy swaying drum beat.  A sloppy, slightly off-key chorus.  A slick, smooth horn riff peeking behind the drunken sing along.  The result is pretty bad-ass.

Atlanta rock/ “flower punk” band Black Lips is releasing their new album, “Underneath the Rainbow” on March 18.  They teamed up with fellow garage rock veteran Pat Carney (drummer, The Black Keys) who produced several tracks on the album.  Fifteen years on the scene, world tours that include a recent tour of the Middle East (along with accompanying documentary), crazy on-stage antics, fleeing India for fear of arrest….  sounds like these guys are the breath of fresh air the world of rock could really use right now.

p.s.-this song is begging to be part of the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack….