Category Archives: Paul

Paul’s Favorites of 2019

So here we are again at the end of another year.  While I have not been very active in the blogosphere this year, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening to music and taking notes!  So, just under the wire, here are my favorites of 2019.

10. Vampire Weekend – This Life

The type of song that can  make you feel like the suns shining and the bird are singing, even if you’re in the middle of a cold foggy rainstorm.

 

9.  Nilufer Yanya – In Your Head

Heard this song on a new music playlist and it grabbed me from the first riff.  Can’t really tell what’s going on in her head, but the song kicks ass.

 

8. Bruce Springsteen – Stones

It took me a while to warm up to Bruce’s latest release, Western Stars, as it was so different from what I would have expected.  But its filled with gorgeous melodies and grand arrangements, and as we have come to expect from Bruce, brilliant characters.  This was one of my favorites from it.

 

7. Amanda Palmer – The Ride

A perfect song for a Sunday morning – a tour de force performance that tells you everything you need to know about this ride called life.  Favorite lyric:

Everyone’s trying to stay on the side where the water’s just boiling more slowly
Frogs in a pot, well that’s one thing I’ve got
At least some of the frogs in here know me

 

6. Better Oblivion Community Center – Dylan Thomas

This out of the blue paring between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers is the perfect example of a collaboration that you hope isn’t just a one off.

 

5. Leonard Cohen – Happens to the Heart

I didn’t get into Leonard Cohen til towards the end of his life.  After his death, went back and listened to his catalog and wished I had paid more attention earlier.  This posthumous release is one last gift from this master songwriter.

 

4. The Beths – You Wouldn’t Like Me

I raved about this song back in Feburary, and the feeling never faded.  A great song from a great album which hits one of my wheelhouses – guitar power pop with a female singer.  And for some reason, the Southern Hemisphere (in this case New Zealand) seems to have more than its fair share.

 

3. Martha – Love Keeps Kicking

One of my favorite guitar riffs of the year from England’s punk pop masters Martha.  And the video is a hoot to boot!

 

2. Alex Lahey – Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

You know what I said a bit earlier about guitar pop, female singer, and the Southern Hemisphere?  Exhibit B from Australia.  I could put this song on an extended replay loop and not get tired of it.

 

1. Little Steven – Superfly Terraplane

It was a great year for one of my favorite artists.  Springsteen’s extended break from E St. Bnd projects has allowed many of the band members the opportunity to pursue their own projects, and Little Steven has taken full advantage.  Releasing his first album of all new material in decades, he also toured extensively with the Disciples of Soul and continued to kill it live – definitely one of my concert highlights this year.

If I was king of the universe, this song would be a massive #1 hit worldwide.  Alas, I’m not but its still my song of the year.

 

Wishing everyone worldwide a Happy New Year!  Looking forward to more great music discovery in 2020!

Greeting from Germany!

Paul is vacationing in Germany! Yesterday we spent the day in Cologne – a really beautiful city, including the stunning cathedral. And yes we climbed the 500 step spiral staircase to the top!

When we were leaving this group of young people set up in the public square in front of the cathedral in the rain to busk. As you can see from video this wasn’t just one or two on guitar or horn but a group of 10 – full horn section with percussion. I have no idea who they were or what they were playing but I thought it was pretty cool to hear.

Sweet Child O’ Mine as performed by a Double Bass Orchestra

Some of you know that my teenage son plays the double bass.  Every summer for the past few years he has attended a week long music camp in Baltimore called BassWorks – all bass players, just bass players.  One of the highlights of the week is the final concert where the entire orchestra of 82 bassists plays a classical number and a “pop” number.

I was excited when I heard they were going to be doing Guns N’ Roses, and it doesn’t disappoint.  See what you think!

New Music Discoveries

Love Keep Kicking – Martha

I included a song by this band in a January new music post (here), although the song Heart is Healing was actually from 2018, and was a teaser for a forthcoming album.  Well, they have a new single out, Love Keeps Kicking, which is the title track for the album due April 5 on Dirtnap Records.  Like Heart is Healing, Love Keeps Kicking is a smart pop punk song with a catchy as hell guitar line about the travails of love.

You said love keeps kicking the shit out of me and there’s no solution I can see
No happy pill, no drinking bleach, no permanent lobotomy

 

Seventeen – Sharon Van Etten

From her 5th studio album, Remind Me Tomorrow, Seventeen is Sharon Van Etten‘s homage to her old neighborhoods in NYC, and how her favorite haunts have disappeared or permanently changed.  Its also her talking to her seventeen old self, with both nostalgia for the way she used to be, knowledge of what she did right (or not) back then, and conjecture as to how her teenage self would view her adult self.  Much more expansive than her previous work (the addition of synths helps), the song continues to grow on me with every repeated listen.

 

 

Maggie Rogers – Fallingwater

Maggie Rogers is a 24 year old singer/songwriter from the Eastern Shore of MD who incorporates electronica influences into folk song structures.  She first gained some attention a few years ago when Alaska, a composition class song she put together for a masterclass with Pharrel Williams visibly moved him (you can see the video here).  I first saw her when she opened for Mumford & Sons last year here in DC.  Fallingwater is from her debut album Heard It in a Past Life. I love her voice, and also that a 24 year old local is doing her own thing, blazing her own trail into pop music.

 

Killer – Palehound

Palehound is a guitar trio from Boston led by Ellen Kempner on guitar and vocals, Larz Brogan on bass, and Jesse Weiss on drums who formed in 2014.  I heard this song on a NPR Music new music show and was immediately taken by its dark, moody atmospheric feel, the whispering vocals, and the ominous lyrics about protecting your friends whatever it takes (literally).  The guitar line propels the song along, and the lyrics give enough clues for you to know that the man who mistreated the singer’s friend will not have a happy ending.

When you winced and turned your head and wept, that’s when I knew
That it’s not enough to run that dog out of this town
My weapon’s cold in the backseat, hunt that monster down

 

Til next time….

Digging in the Garage Episode 3

Digging this feature back out after a few starts last year.  This is where I feature favorite classic picks and new finds in garage rock, inspired by the Nuggets compilation and Little Steven’s Underground Garage.  Here’s a link to the original post that has more details on the idea.

First up, The Knickerbockers – One Track Mind

The pride of Bergenfield NJ, the Knickerbockers formed in 1962 – their classic line up consisted of brothers Beau Charles (guitar and vocals) and John Charles (bass and vocals), Buddy Randell (vocals and sax), and Jimmy Walker (drums).  They got their name from a road that ran through an adjacent town.

I featured their top 20 hit Lies, from 1965, in a Song of the Day back in September of last year. One Track Mind came out in 1966, and didn’t do as well (#45) due to distribution problems.  Both songs have great pop melodies reminiscent of the Beatles.

 

Next up, Big Star – When My Baby’s Beside Me

Big Star (Alex Chilton (guitars, piano, vocals), Chris Bell (guitars, vocals), Jody Stephens (drums, vocals), and Andy Hummel (bass guitar, vocals)) formed in 1971 in Memphis, and before breaking up in 1974, released a series of albums that served as a blueprint for power pop music for decades to come.  They were one of those bands that never really achieved commercial success at the time but in retrospect were hugely influential, cited as an inspiration by REM, the Replacements, as well as many others.  When My Baby’s Beside Me is off their 1st record, aptly names Number 1 Record.

 

Let’s go overseas to Scotland and The Marmalade’s I See The Rain

As I’ve mentioned, one inspiration for these posts is Little Steven’s Underground Garage.  Usually, the 4th set of the show features what Steven calls a “slightly psychedelic” set.  While I’ve never really been into that genre very much, I did hear this song for the first time on the show and really loved it (and to be honest, it is really only slightly psychedelic!).  I especially like the guitar line, the harmony vocals, and the making the best of the situation ethos of the lyrics.

The Marmalade were from Glasgow Scotland, having first formed in 1961 and going under several other names before settling on The Marmalade in 1966.  Members included Patrick Fairley (vocals, 6 string bass/rhythm guitars), William Junior Campbell (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Dean Ford (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Raymond Duffy (drums), and Graham Knight (vocals, bass).  I See the Rain was released in 1967 (and topped the charts in the Netherlands) and was also on their 1968 album There’s Alot of It About.

 

Cotton Mather – Lost My Motto

While I have mostly focused on classic garage from the 1960s, there are many great garage bands still keeping the flame alive.  Here’s another great one that I discovered on the Underground Garage.

Named for the 17th century Puritan preacher, Cotton Mather formed in 1990 in Austin TX, and consisted of Robert Harrison (guitar and vocals), Whit Williams (guitar and vocals), Matt Hovis (bass) and Greg Thibeaux (drums).  Weaving in influences from the Beatles to early Elvis Costello, they play great guitar power pop.  This cut, Lost My Motto, from the 1994 album Cotton Is King, also has a distinctly Squeeze like feel.  As of 2017, they were still active.

 

Well, time to roll the garage door down for now.  Til next time…..

 

Sources: Wikipedia

 

New Music Discoveries

The Beths – You Wouldn’t Like Me

When multiple bloggers I trust start recommending the same band, its time to pay attention.  When I’m in love with a song about 5 seconds into it, time to stop what I’m doing to check them out.  This is what happened with New Zealand band The Beths.  While I missed when their debut album dropped last year, fellow bloggers Steve for the Deaf and Aphoristical both featured them in just the past couple weeks.  Rather than go on too much about them, here are links to Steve and Aphoristical’s posts, which are much more fun to read and erudite than I could ever be.  Just suffice it to say these catchy power pop gems (think Weezer, or Best Coast)will be on serious rotation the rest of the year on my listening device.  There’s not a bad song on the album, so here’s a random cut.

 

Spielbergs – Five On it

I heard this song on a new music playlist and immediately loved the loud, somewhat fuzzy big guitar sound.  And then fellow blogger The Soul of a Clown also featured them recently.  Spielbergs reminds me of bands like Japandroids or Cloud Nothings.  They’re are a three piece indie rock band from Oslo Norway who put out a debut EP last year – this song is from their debut album, This is Not the End, which came out last week.  From the feedback squeals at the beginning and end, this song is two and half minutes of guitar bliss.

 

Tancred – Queen of New York

Ok I’m detecting a theme for this installment of New Music Discoveries – guitar, guitar, guitar!  And fellow blogger recs!  Tancred is the stage name of Jess Abbott, who writes great guitar pop songs like this one.  As with The Beths, this came out last year so not super new (but who cares) – I was alerted to it The Soul of a Clown, who posted this great review of Tancred’s album Nightstand a few days ago.  I’m a complete sucker for these types of bands!