My Paper Heart

When The All-American Rejects debuted their self-titled album in 2002 it was right at the time when I became interested in current pop music. Prior to that, I mostly listened to the music of my older siblings ranging from bands such as Depeche Mode to Cyndi Lauper to R.E.M. to They Might Be Giants to Harry Connick Jr. and … you get the idea (in large families there can be a quite diverse collection). But with the turn of the century came a change in the methods I was exposed to music. I started listening more from mainstream sources than I ever had before, heard about songs and bands from my friends at school, and started to look for what I liked. Turns out I liked most things, but the point here is when this faction of alt-rock/pop punk music aimed directly at teenagers hit the radio waves, I was all for it.

Image result for all american rejects album

That album was a game changer for me, and I remember it was one of the ones I always kept a CD copy of in my car once I got my license. I still know all the words to every track, and I am not at all ashamed to admit that.

Of course even 3 years later in 2005 when The All-American Rejects sophomore album was released (ironically it coincided with my own sophomore year of high school) I had hit another one of those  “I don’t like what’s popular” phases I was so fond of as a teenager and I found the hits from that album annoying and maybe a little trite. Some part of me believed that as I grew and matured they stayed the same, making the same music aimed at the same demographic. In essence, I grew out of it.

Now, however, I can listen a little more objectively. I maintain that the first album was the best one; infectious and fun, tracks such as “Swing, Swing” “My Paper Heart” and “Time Stands Still” made it a stand out record and really sent The All-American Rejects to the front of the line. Creative instrumentation and dynamic arranging are key features for the sound on that album, and I will never tire of it. I am under the impression many of those songs used electronic drum tracks, but I can’t seem to find a source for that information. That’s what it sounds like at any rate.

Image result for all american rejects

As for the rest of their albums. The hit singles such as “Gives You Hell” and “Dirty Little Secret” are good tracks, exactly the kind of radio hit I expect. They were overplayed on the radio so my reflex is to skip those songs, but on the rare occasion I do listen to them I like them. For some other tracks you might not know, they had a song on one fo the Transformers movie soundtracks called “Real World” that was pretty good, and I enjoyed “Drown Next To Me” and “Bleed Into Your Mind – Demo” from the Kids In The Street” album.

I think one of the reasons it doesn’t resonate as much with me now as it did at first is the lead singers voice. It’s just a little bit nasally, perhaps even whiny, and it grates on me after a while. But that is a personal preference of mine. I also feel like the dynamic arrangements I loved from the first album didn’t show up on subsequent albums nearly as much

All together, they are a pretty good band and have made some notable pop-rock/pop punk music over the last 15 years. And yes, it has been that long. Kudos to you, All-American Rejects, and may you inspire emoting teenagers everywhere for years to come.

Image result for pop punk music

I’ll Fly Away

Before we get started, let me just say that binge listening to a musicians’ entire library of music can be a difficult task at times. I like bluegrass and country, but I guess I must like it better in smaller doses or with more variety because this was one of those times.

Image result for bluegrass

Bluegrass is characterized by its acoustic stringed instruments and its varied roots. I believe it evolved mostly from the Appalachian region with strong ties to the immigrants who settled there. The musical traditions of England, Scotland, and Ireland all heavily influence this genre, and it often seems quite Celtic in nature even when you can hear the southern blues and jazz influence mixed into it. I find it fascinating to have that eclectic mix of influence to create a genre.

But back to the artist at hand.

Image result for alison krauss

Alison Krauss is pretty solidly on the country side of bluegrass as opposed to the Celtic side. She had a country radio hit in the mid 90’s you are probably familiar with: a cover of “When You Say Nothing At All.” I am pretty sure it was played at middle school and high school dances across the country for years.

As for her solo stuff, Alison Krauss makes the kind of music I would expect to hear piped over tinny speakers in a 60-year-old bar in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the Midwest. And I mean that in the best possible way. You know the kind of place: an old Ford or Dodge truck (you can’t really tell which anymore) from the 70’s that used to be a color other than rust permanently sitting outside, a big worn out sign that says something like “Watering Hole” or “Hitchin’ Post” and the same seven regulars that come every week. Not that I’m trying to be stereotypical here, that’s just what comes to my mind. Like this:

If that’s your kind of music, you will love her most recent Album, Windy City, and you should look into it. Tracks I would highlight include “Gentle On My Mind” and “Losing You”. She also did a great version of “You Don’t Know Me”

I will be honest in saying that when I listen to bluegrass I tend to pick bands such as Nickel Creek, The Wailin’ Jennys, or maybe Punch Brothers. I have learned my lesson, and have now added Alison Krauss & Union Station to that list; specifically with Union Station; of all her music that’s what I like best.

Image result for alison krauss and union station

When I started listening to her music for this project, I was a little intimidated by the amount of music she has out there between her solo career and her work with Union Station. As mentioned above, I personally prefer her work outside of the solo career. She recorded an album with Robert Plant in 2007 called Raising Sand that was especially good. My favorite track on that album is “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us”.

Alison Krauss & Union Station’s most recent album together, Paper Airplane, produced in 2011, has some really great tunes on it such as “My Love Follows You Where You Go” and “Bonita And Bill Butler”. But their older stuff deserves to be heard as well. In particular, I would give “The Lucky One” a listen.

Image result for o brother where art thou soundtrack

The music I had from Alison Krauss that brought this post about was her contribution to the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie or listened to the soundtrack, but you should. It’s very good, all around fantastic. “Down In The River To Pray” and “I’ll Fly Away” are the key tracks by my spotlighted artist today, but if you check out the soundtrack, listen to “Big Rock Candy Mountain” “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and “In The Jailhouse Now”

Image result for o brother where art thou band

Enjoy some bluegrass today. It’s calming, and there is something just flat out fun about banjos, fiddles, and dobro style resonator guitars. I must add one of each of those to my instrument collection one day.

Happy listening!

The Sun Always Shines On TV

a-ha is one of those bands who just can’t seem to quit. No, really, They started up in the early 80’s and went until 1994 when they went on hiatus for 4 years. They released an album in 2000 and kept on releasing albums until 2009, and then decided to split up after one last tour (named the Ending On A High Note tour) the following year. But then they reunited in 2015 for another album and 2 more years together.

Scandinavian bands tend to flare in popularity in the US hot and fast. Until I started listening to their other stuff, I had assumed a-ha was just another one hit wonder from the 80’s. Not so, they have released no less than 10 studio albums and have been widely popular pretty much everywhere else in the world. They are even in the Guinness Book for largest paying audience. 198,000 people showed up to listen to them in Rio.

a-ha’s best years are arguably the first decade, when new wave was all the rage. And that’s definitely what they are: new wave. Also a little alt-rock and synth-pop, but I digress.

Image result for a-ha funny

How many of you know anything by a-ha other than “Take On Me”? To be fair, “Take On Me” is a fabulous song: fun, catchy, sing-able (even if that high note is nearly impossible for most guys), and it can really bring people together. Who doesn’t love that song?! Combined with an iconic music video, it’s a hit for the ages. Here’s a link to the video for it:

That will probably always be one of my favorite music videos of all time. However! We are not here to talk only about the music you already know, but also the music you don’t.

Three was so much more to listen to by a-ha than I anticipated, I had to spread it out over a week or so. Their sound changed a bit over the years, starting out your typical 80’s new wave with a few stand out tracks such as “Cry Wolf” and “The Sun Always Shines On TV” and “Crying In The Rain” though that last one reminded me a little of Talking Heads.

Related image

One of the defining traits of new wave bands in my opinion is a strong synth keyboard sound. That sound is very apparent in the songs I listed above, but some of a-ha’s later albums (and here I’m talking mostly about the album Cast In Steel) the synth became more understated and the track became more orchestral in it’s arrangement. I was honestly reminded of Keane a number of times throughout that album. To anyone who is a fan of Keane, you should check it out for sure. My favorite from that album is probably the title track.

Image result for keane

There is a collection alum on Spotify titled Time and Again: The Ultimate a-ha that had quite a few good tracks on it. Firstly I would mention “Did Anyone Approach You” which was one of the songs that made me think of Keane. Secondly, there were some good remixes there, my favorite being “Summer Moved On.” It is kind of an epic song in the first place but the remix gave it a “2000’s cool” kind of vibe that really worked well.

Moral of the story here is that one hit wonders aren’t really just one hit wonders. I got on board the new wave train for this post and found some good tunes to add to my collection along the way.

‘Til next time!

Thank You For The Music

We will be backtracking for the next few posts, thanks to the music I added to Spotify this past week or so. So next up: ABBA!

Image result for abba

ABBA is truly a musical legend. As far as my young self can tell, everyone knew of and liked ABBA at some point since they started performing. They are one of the most successful musical acts in the history of pop music. Honestly, there are a lot of songs out there that have stood the test of time, but not many have done so as well as the music of ABBA. They are so well loved a musical consisting entirely of their hits was produced 17 years after they had disbanded. It was even made into a movie nine more years after that. I’m sure it is a favorite of someone you know, my grandmother and my aunt are both particularly fond of it.

Image result for mamma mia

Arguably their biggest hit, “Dancing Queen” has been covered, adapted, parodied, and replayed more times than is possible to count, though Spotify has a running total for their service at 78,547,327 (at the time of this blog post). I am sure that is only a small fraction, since that only counts online streaming from one site and not  countless other websites, CD’s, tapes, vinyl records, etc. that have been played over and over again.

I have fond memories of listening to ABBA as a kid (we might have had a couple of cassettes, though I mostly remember a CD copy of ABBA Gold). I also have a memory from my teenage years when I was a part of my high school’s women’s choir; one spring we did an ABBA medley for our Pops concert. Fun stuff to sing along with at any time for sure, but it was especially fun for that concert, despite losing my breath during the part where I practically chanted “take a chance take a chance, take a take a chance chance, take a chance take a chance…” Go alto voices!

It’s just good, fun music. This is, for me, the height of disco (along with the Bee Gees, of course) and really epitomizes the genre for me. Even more than that, they have doubtlessly influenced hundreds of other artists in many different genres that have come after them and they have inspired at least one ABBA tribute band out there that I know of (the A-Teens). If any group out there has a strong standing legacy, ABBA does.

I heard a rumor the other day about ABBA reforming. Let me assure you: this is not true.

Image result for abba meme

What is true however, is that they are going to get together this year for a special virtual concert of some kind. I’m still a little hazy on the details, the different articles I looked at weren’t all that informative, but any ABBA fan should keep an eye out for that. After all, it is now 35 years since they disbanded.

I’m not gonna recommend specific songs (they are all pretty great) but if you want a nice comprehensive album to listen to, check out ABBA Gold. It is a collection of all their hits, from “Fernando” to “Waterloo” to “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and is really fun album to listen to.

Image result for abba

Check it out, and happy listening!

 

___________________

 

P.S. Completely from left field here: So I was looking at that last picture above this and the expressions on their faces, and suddenly what came to mind were the characters from Frozen. I mean look at that picture up there: Brunette guy with a smirk, happy/laughing brunette girl, more calm yet still smiling blonde girl, and a slightly doofy looking blonde dude. This picture below doesn’t match expression at all, though the line up is right.

Image result for frozen characters posed as abba

And then I found this other one in my google search. Someone out there on the internet obviously had the same thought pop up in their head:

Image result for frozen characters posed as abba

Weird. Thanks for being on the same strange brainwave as me, Silvaniart at Tumblr!

Man, my brain is weird.

Homage/Fallin’

There are so many artists to talk about, so I decided to do a 2-for-1 special in this post. So without further ado, here you go.

Part 1: Alicia Keys

Image result for alicia keys album art

Objectively, I am completely aware of the fact that Alicia Keys is a truly great musician. She writes and composes very well, and she represents the genres of R&B and Soul excellently. She has a large collection of very soulful music that most of it, for some reason, I just don’t really care about. I actually quite enjoy R&B and Soul music, though I typically go for the older stuff. I think Alicia Keys is a great artist, but her music just doesn’t really reach me. Everyone has their favorite genres, and even though I like this genre quite a bit and can enjoy her music when it is on, Alicia Keys is not an artist I seek out much at all.

Except, that is, her hit singles. These are possibly the exception because I have heard them so many times on the radio and being piped over speakers in various locations, but nonetheless they are great songs and I do really like them. My top 3 are “No One” “If I Ain’t Got You” and of course “Fallin'” I have to say “Girlfriend” is pretty good as well with, in my opinion, a Destiny’s Child kind of vibe. They are all ridiculously fun to listen to (and dance stupidly to if I’m hanging out alone in my apartment).

Here’s a video for “Fallin'” for your enjoyment.

Don’t get me wrong, if you like R&B at all, please go listen to her, she’s really good. I like her stuff, I just don’t listen to it often and wouldn’t bother trying to get a ticket to see her live. Make of that what you will.

 

Image result for and now for something completely different

 

Part 2: Alien Ant Farm

Image result for alien ant farm

Alien Ant Farm is not my usual cup of tea either. I honestly have no problem with Metal (I believe this particular group is classified as either nu metal or alternative metal) or with Punk Rock (they also have that label) and in fact there are multiple bands in those genres I truly love. I guess I’m just a lot more picky when it comes to some genres.

I’m pretty sure most of you have no idea who Alien Ant Farm are. They are the band who did that alt-metal-punk-rock cover of “Smooth Criminal” that shows up on Alt-Rock stations. You know the one. It’s a pretty good cover; I like when a band covers a song and makes it their own a little bit. If you play it the same way as the original then nine times out of ten I’d rather just listen to the original. Anyway, “Smooth Criminal” is the reason they are on my Spotify.

While I was listening to their other stuff I did in fact find a few that I liked and have since added to my music collection, but other than that I didn’t much care about it one way or the other. A lot of their music is just filler for me, and didn’t leave much of an impression. The ones I liked more tended to be more on the pop rock side of their style as opposed to metal or punk, and most of them are from the album Always and Forever. Specifically, I like “Sidelines” “Movies” “American Pie” (not a cover of the Don McLean song) and “Homage”

That last one is my favorite, it’s pretty much nothing but music references. In fact I counted approximately 24 references. If nothing else, please listen to that song, it’s very fun and really hit home with me. In fact, here’s a link to a lyric video for you:

Well, that’s about it for me today. Two more artists down, hundreds to go. There is still a long musical journey ahead of me, yet I am undaunted! Onward we go!

All I Really Want

 

When you hear the name Alanis Morissette, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most, it is probably “angry rocker chick music” or possibly “90’s alt-rock angst.” Both are true to some extent. Let’s be honest, if you hadn’t heard her stuff before and then someone played “You Oughta Know” it would sound pretty angst ridden and angry rocker chick. Here’s the music video if you’re interested:

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Jagged Little Pill came out in 1995 when I was 6 years old. Most of my exposure to Alanis came about a little later on when I finally reached an age demographic that can appreciate the music she produces. I can’t remember the first time I heard her music, but it was likely on the radio when I was a kid. It was background music for a large portion of my life and I didn’t give it much thought other than, “hey that’s a good song.”

This project has been great for me in a lot of ways, but I am especially glad I looked a little closer at Alanis Morissette.

In my opinion her most critically acclaimed album, Jagged Little Pill, is her best album. If you haven’t heard the acoustic version of that album she released in 2005 (tenth anniversary of the original release) you should check it out, it is a great return to that album and has phenomenal versions of the tracks you know and love.

You can’t go wrong with songs like “You Oughta Know” “Hand In My Pocket” “Ironic” or “Head Over Feet”, but you’ve heard all those songs hundreds of times on the radio. The other ones on that album that I now love would have to be “Right Through You,” “All I Really Want” (both are even better on the acoustic album), “Mary Jane,” and “I’m Not The Doctor.” Those are some really fantastic songs and hit home her aptitude as a lyricist.

Here’s the acoustic version of “All I Really Want” for your enjoyment:

Everyone knows Jagged Little Pill, and that’s great. The album you should really check out aside from that is Under The Rug Swept. This was the first album where she was the sole writer and producer, and I have to say I was impressed. It is chalk full of the same awesome Alanis Morissette sound on some all new tracks.

I am especially fond of “Hands Clean” and “21 Things I Want In A Lover” but really the whole album is good. There’s also a really nice yet very simple bass line going on in “So Unsexy” and we all know I love a good bass line. 

Speaking of bass lines, go listen to the bass line in “You Oughta Know” which was actually played by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Similarly, Dave Navarro took on the guitar line for the recording of that track. 

 A lot of artists have the curse of having all their music sounding the same, and with such a unique voice it would have been easy for her to fall into the same rut. I am glad she tried out some new things on some of her other albums, though personally I don’t think it worked all that well for her on Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, yet she managed to stay true to her original style on Under The Rug Swept while still keeping it interesting.

All in all, Alanis Morissette is a great song writer. I really got into her stuff during this and was pretty blown away by how much I really liked it. I feel like some of it can really stand the test of time and is relate-able to a lot of people in various circumstances, and not just jilted women in their 20’s. I really recommend you listen to some of the songs I mentioned in this post, especially if you haven’t heard it before.

That’s all for now, keep an eye out for my next post which will be a double whammy and cover two separate artists.

P.S. Who on earth knew that she’s done some acting?! I certainly didn’t, and I have never seen any of the things she’s been in. Admittedly, it’s not a huge acting career, but it’s there. Random.

Image result for alanis morissette meme

Hang Loose

Alabama Shakes hit the scene with a bang in 2012 with their album Boys & Girls.

The first time I heard them, I was very impressed. I follow the YouTube channel for Seattle public radio station KEXP, and they posted a great live session of Alabama Shakes. Here’s a link if you want to check it out:

They have a raw bluesy sound that’s not heard in today’s music very much. The track “Hold On” is likely my favorite, and has a lot of fun stuff going on in it. A few other tracks on that album are likewise fun to listen to, such as “Hang Loose” “Rise To the Sun” and “I Ain’t the Same.” I especially like the guitar in “Hang Loose” and the chill swing beats and organ background in “Rise To the Sun.” I received a vinyl copy of the album as a gift a while ago and it sounds great in that format, their style is well suited to the sounds of a vinyl record.

Image result for vinyl record

They released a second album in 2015 which I am less familiar with, aside from the single that gets radio play, “Don’t Want To Fight.” It is a great song, though hearing it too frequently can get a little repetitive for my taste, so I save it for an occasional listen and enjoy it all the more for that.

When I listened to the whole album for this project, I was immediately taken in by the title track “Sound & Color.” They made great use of background details on that track, including some xylophone to give it just the right vibe and strings to build it up in a rich way while maintaining the almost ethereal (for them) effect of the song.  It’s actually quite nice to listen to that song and immediately follow up with track #2, “Don’t Want To Fight”

Image result for listening to  headphones

The rest of the album, while pretty good, didn’t hold my attention too much. That was likely due to inattention on my part while listening, so I’ll have to go back and listen again sometime.

All in all, I like them. Not my favorite band (though I’m not sure I could say that I have a favorite anyway), but fun to listen to. If given the opportunity to see them live, I would maybe take it depending on ticket price.

Image result for thumbs up

Changing

And it starts sometime around midnight.

Image result for gonna be good

The Airborne Toxic Event is a fantastic band. Truly, they are awesome to listen to. I am so very glad for this project, or I may have been stuck only ever listening to their radio hits. I am sure most of you know the song “Sometime Around Midnight”, which is really an amazing song and deserves all the radio play it gets. Honestly, I love how that song just keeps on building throughout the whole thing, starting with the strings and working it’s way to add 2 guitar lines, drums which just get more and more awesome, bass, etc, etc. It also tells a very visual story that follows the build up, and I do have a bit of a soft spot for narrative songs. Bonus points for this one being told in second person perspective.

Image result for bonus points

You may also know a couple of their other songs which have come out since, such as “All I Ever Wanted”, and “Changing” Their first big hit came from their debut self-titled album, the latter two from their sophomore release All At Once. 

Like I mentioned before, I am very glad this project spurred me on to listen to their stuff more in depth. It’s all awesome. They have a great sound in general, but more than that they aren’t afraid to change things up. Quite a few of their songs are your typical guitar-drums-bass-maybe keys. But they also have a habit of including string quartets for a more orchestral sound. This is evident in the beginning of “Sometime Around Midnight” but more so in “All I Ever Wanted”and some of the deeper cuts.

In fact, they did an entire live album featuring The Calder Quartet that was quite good. I don’t always like listening to live albums, but this one was pretty good.

Image result for i don't always template

Similarly, I don’t typically listen to album or track commentaries, but I did for their album Such Hot Blood and it was actually kind of nice to get a little more insight into the creative process and meaning behind some of their songs. I don’t think I’ll listen to the commentary again, but I liked it anyway.

One more thing I liked: along with their most recent album Dope Machines they also released another album the following day, Sons of God and Whiskey. While Dope Machines stays true to their typical sound (if a little more synthesized) Sons of God and Whiskey is an acoustic album, with some really fantastic tracks. I am especially a fan of “Poor Isaac” and “A Certain Type Of Girl”

Go listen to The Airborne Toxic Event. Aside from having a great band name, they have a great sound that crosses over genre lines and they have pretty good lyrics.

That’s all for now, peace out!

Image result for peace out

Squealing Pigs

Image result for scotland

Admiral Fallow is quite obviously Scottish, so here’s a picture of Scotland. Some bands you can’t hear any native accent at all, but not this one. The moment the lead singer opens his mouth it is completely obvious, and I like it. In fact, I like their style quite a bit.

I don’t remember when I first heard them, which is weird, but I do remember liking them enough to recommend them to other people.

I have listened to all 3 of their albums, and I think I prefer their second album, Tree Bursts In Snow, the best. For their songs that just don’t seem to speak to me, there is a kind of legato feel, which can be very cool, but can get a little boring after a while. It’s their songs that have a little more drive in them that makes them stand out

Here is a list of my favorite tracks for your perusal: “The Paper Trench”, “Squealing Pigs”,  “Guest of the Government”, “Brother”, “The Way You Were Raised”, and “Subbuteo”

Here’s a link to their music video for “Paper Trench” for you since it’s my favorite song of theirs.

Well, I honestly don’t have much else to say. They are a good band, and I enjoy listening to my favorite tracks from them. The end.

Right As Rain

Story time!

Before she took over pop radio with her second album, I was maybe peripherally aware of Adele. Meaning I had heard a couple of her songs (“Chasing Pavements” and “Hometown Glory”) but didn’t know who she was. One morning I was driving into work listening to the local community radio station like the hipster I am when a song came on that hit home with me. You know how some songs you just have to finish listening to before you can get out of the car? Yeah, this was one of those. I remember being surprised and slightly blown away at the rich and heavy tones and drums through the repetitive phrases in “Rumor Has It”, and just sitting in the car listening spell bound. I really liked that song, and anytime I heard it on that station I always turned the volume up. I still have that vivid memory of the first time I heard that song and how much I loved it.

Lo and behold pop radio picked her up shortly after that and after a while she got a little overplayed for my tastes. Curse you, Top 40 radio!

Image result for adele

Anyway, after she got popular from her album 21, I looked her up on Youtube and really loved her video for “Rolling In The Deep”, you should check it out:

Adele has only 3 albums out, but she has been very popular since her second album came out, though many of you know her hit “Chasing Pavements” from the first album, 19.

Fun Fact! Her albums are named after how old she was when she released them (or recorded them, I’m not exactly sure). I can’t say for sure, but one of the reasons I like her might be because she and I are pretty close to the same age.

Image result for adele when we were young

All in all, she’s pretty impressive. She’s a good song writer, even if she seems to have a penchant for break-up songs especially, and she has great control of a rather striking voice. And she made an absolutely fantastic James Bond theme with “Skyfall”. Though I never actually saw that movie I was a fan of the song. Bonus points to her for winning an Academy Award with that song. Not that that’s the only award she’s received for her music. I mean just look at those Grammies!

Image result for adele

So I guess the moral of this story is Adele is a great musician. You don’t have to like all of her songs (a lot of them are pretty sad) but you should maybe look a little deeper into her stuff. I think my favorite track of all would be “Right As Rain” followed by “Rolling In The Deep” (I mean, really, that music video was rad!).

Bonus joke! I love this joke, I tell it all the time.

Image result for adele meme

And because I found too many good memes, here’s some more for your enjoyment.

Image result for adele meme

Image result for adele meme

Image result for adele meme

Image result for adele meme

Image result for adele meme

Image result for adele meme

Image result for adele meme