Distraction #74

A few years ago I had a roommate who was an absolutely huge Avett Brothers fan. I am very sad to report I did not take that opportunity to check out their music.

However! I have made up for the lack of The Avett Brothers music in my life since then. I can’t remember when I first actually got into it, but I am very glad I looked a little deeper the last couple of weeks. These guys are fantastic musicians as well as excellent storytellers. I would be so excited to go see one of their shows, everything I’ve heard from their live albums indicates they would be a great band to see perform.

For those that have never heard of The Avett Brothers, let me give you the run down. The band is made up of Scott and Seth Avett as well as Bob Crawford and Joe Kwan. They also have a few other members for live performances. I won’t give you a history of the band here like I have for previous posts. Instead, I’m going to focus on the music.

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This music belongs in the genre of Americana, though it can also be classified as Bluegrass, Folk, Folk Rock, and Indie Folk. For me, Americana music is light and fun, and I feel that reflected in The Avett Brothers songs. They also have some more somber or serious tunes as well, and those are just as good. I can definitely appreciate a band who knows how to balance having ballads and emotional tracks with more uptempo exciting numbers, and The Avett Brothers balance that perfectly.

Their instrumentation is classic Americana most of the time, though they don’t let anything as trivial as genre labels put them in a box. You’ll find that their lyrics are often more similar to alt and indie rock than bluegrass, and their arrangements are fairly a-typical as well. In fact, one of the reasons I love their music so much is that I don’t always know what to expect from them. They always sound like themselves, but their songs don’t sound the same at all; each one of them unique and well-thought out.

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Their most recent popular song “Ain’t No Man” has had quite a bit of radio play, drastically expanding their listener base. It’s a great song and I quite enjoy it, though it has potential to be overplayed so I don’t listen to it much on my own. Another popular song is “I And Love And You” which while distinctly a ballad in it’s tempo and style, also has interesting and visual lyrics that keep you hooked.

The Avett Brothers have many songs I truly enjoy, but none tickled me quite as much as “Distraction #74” which has the most fun vocal arrangement I’ve heard in a long time. These guys are quite good at harmonies and vocal arrangements. Seriously, go listen to that song all the way through. You won’t regret it.

I would like to give you a top 5 songs to listen to by The Avett Brothers but bear with me here. It’s gonna be hard to narrow it down to just 5, so I’ll exclude the songs previously mentioned to thin it out (but those ones are awesome too, go take a listen).

“Kick Drum Heart”

“Satan Pulls The Strings” – this one has a distinctly different instrumentation and is an interesting change of pace.

“Murder In The City”

“Bella Donna”

“Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise”

And just cause I can’t help myself, I’ll add another one:

“Slight Figure Of Speech”

Oh, and here’s a great music video for “Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise” that I really enjoyed.

This is just a really fun band to listen to. They’ve gained a fan for life in me, and I would encourage anyone to listen to their music. Go check them out!

 

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Águas de Março

Oh, how I have been looking forward to this post!

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As an avid music listener and an amateur musician I have opinions on many aspects of music, and the one we will discuss now is rhythm. Drum beats have a vast variety across the many genres. From driving and steady quarter note rhythms found in many rock and pop songs, to tripping little triplets in jazz, to alternate beats accenting reggae, to heavy half-time dubstep, rhythm is a huge indicator of not only the genre of a song but mood and emotion.

I have personally always enjoyed the subtle and intricate rhythms found in Bossa Nova music. Here is some sheet music of such rhythm for those of you that can read it.

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Bossa Nova emerged in the 50’s and 60’s from Brazil and is possibly the most well-known genre to have emerged from that country. It’s a very smooth sounding music, with gentle melodies and subtle instrumentation which typically consists of an acoustic guitar and drums with perhaps a few other instruments thrown in such as organ, piano, saxophone, flute, etc. It is in fact a jazz subgenre, and is a kind of combination of jazz and samba, making for a relaxed romantic music.

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But enough of me expounding the virtues of Bossa Nova, let’s talk about the artist of the day. Antônio Carlos Jobim, also known as Tom Jobim, was a Brazillian composer and musician and one of the more prominent factors in the emergence of Bossa Nova along with artists such as João Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, and Stan Getz. As a jazz subgenre, and also true to its time period, these songs were often performed by multiple artists. As such, many of the songs I love by Tom Jobim have also been recorded by other Bossa Nova artists.

The songs composed and arranged by Tom Jobim are beautiful and relaxing, the kind of thing you would expect to hear in an upscale restaurant or at some fancy garden party, but I like to listen to it when I’m relaxing. Its a great way to let stress leave you and take life as it comes.

Even if you don’t think you have ever heard a Bossa Nova song before, I can almost guarantee you have at least in passing heard the song “Garota de Ipanema” or “The Girl From Ipanema” This song seems to be the most popular elevator/waiting room song in Hollywood, and I can think of a few movies off the top of my head that have used it. Indeed, Bossa Nova seems to be the quitessential elevator music.

For example, this scene in The Emperors New Groove. It’s hard to hear, but it is there in most of the scene.

Or in The Blues Brothers for this elevator scene.

Or how about this scene from Scrubs.

It really is just about everywhere. In fact, one of my older sisters once made a mixed CD with nothing but different versions of that very song on it, all of them very good. It’s an excellent song. Since I included all those clips above, I figure I might as well include the whole song, so here’s my favorite version:

But let’s not stray too far from the original point of this post. Bossa Nova is in my opinion, as you no doubt have figured out, a fantastic genre of music. I love the way Portuguese sounds when sung in this way (enough that I decided to start learning the language myself so I could sing it). Truly beautiful.

If I were to make a Bossa Nova basics playlist for you to listen to, it would likely include the following tracks: “The Girl From Ipanema” “Corcovado” “Wave” One Note Samba” “Agua De Beber” and of course my long time favorite, “Águas de Março” These are all amazing songs, but if you only listened to one of these songs, I recommend that last one. Here’s another video link for you. I especially enjoy hearing the smile in their voices at the end.

Well, you’ve probably had enough of the video links, so I think I’ll end this here. If you end up loving Boss Nova just as I do, happy listening! If not, well at least you tried something new, right?

So long, and thanks for the beautiful music, Tom!

Wreck Of The Day

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Anna Nalick is most well known for her first single “Breathe (2 AM)” and indeed, that was the only song I really knew by her until recently. It’s a great song, well written both lyrically and melodically, and I will always enjoy when it comes on. As I began to delve into more of Anna Nalick’s music, I thought of how this typically goes one of two ways: either the single I was aware of initially is nothing like the rest of their music and that is why it stood out, or it is exactly like everything else they’ve ever written and sadly it all sounds the same.

In this case, we lean towards the latter option, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I rather liked the rest of her music. There was a big influx of female singer/songwriter artists in the 2000’s however, so her music isn’t as unique or singular as I would like. She does distinctly fall into that category along with artists such as Michelle Branch, Vannessa Carlton, Missy Higgins, or A Fine Frenzy.

If I were to suggest just one song for you to listen to aside from “Breathe (2 AM)” I would suggest “Wreck Of The Day” It’s pretty mellow, but that is the style I tend to drift towards. Here’s an acoustic video if you’re interested:

Overall, I feel like she is a talented lyricist. So if you decide to listen to her music, pay attention to the lyrics, that’s where she shines. I feel this is especially true for “Breathe (2 AM)”.

Keep an eye out for my next post on Bossa Nova!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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!

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.

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