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…

 

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….

“All the years of paradise, paradigms, paralyze us.  You’re crazy.  All the cards you’ve organized, shuffled twice in front of my eyes, Everyone has needs, wants, a cold gun.  Lights low, go on baby go.  It’s a bad time, I’m on a tightrope.”

-Young The Giant, It’s About Time

This is the first single off Young The Giant’s new album that just came out on January 21.  I’m not completely sure what this song’s about…  a revolt, a rebellion?  A metaphor for a relationship?   Maybe all three.  But whatever the meaning, I love the lyrics quoted above.  Who can’t relate to that at some point (well, minus the gun).  This song is a little more rock than their previous stuff, which is probably why I was drawn to it.  It really shines when it breaks down at the chorus and then ramps up again…  Enjoy!

“Girl take a seat, rest your weary bones.  Your secret’s safe in my hands.  Tell me about the years and let me buy an hour.  Maybe help me to understand.  Ain’t nobody calling, ain’t nobody home.  What a lovely day to be lonely….”

-Broken Bells, Holding On For Life

Something old, something new….  that’s what you’re getting with this one.  I started listening to Broken Bells last summer.  They are the duo of James Mercer (The Shins) and Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse).  They released their first self titled album in 2010.  And two whole years later I stumbled on to one of their songs and I was sucked in by the melody, the earthy yet psychedelic music.  It was it’s own genre and I immediately added most of their catalogue to my shuffle.

This first song is from their debut album.  I love Mercer’s voice in general, but I think this song shows it’s depth, it’s higher range and just a hint of a lilt that is intoxicating.  And a hand-clapping chorus gives the otherwise dark song an upbeat vibe.  And I love it.

The second song is off their new album, After The Disco, due out in January.  This song has an other-wordly feel but Mercer’s vocals keep it grounded.  I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album…