Saturday, November 16, 2013

10 Songs For An Estrogen Afternoon (Part 1)

OK it's not really fair to be sexist about this list of songs, as I am assembling these tracks fully admitting that they have a profound effect of me, as a male, as well. Well, I do have slightly elevated Estrogen levels and I do like to lay by fires as some of you know but regardless, as far as I can tell I am 100% dude. With that out of the way and still not really clearing anything up, let's talk about what the songs on this list are all about.

There area million "love songs" out there. There's at least the same amount about loss, pain and sadness of varying kinds, but not all of them have the power to touch us on a deep and emotional level. Why is that? It's a personal thing between the listener and the song really, but it usually comes from a combination of the lyrics and/or melody, or the performance itself. The songs on this list all connect with with me for some of the reasons previously stated, and some just because I can't listen to them without getting misty eyed and I have no discernible reason. Go ahead, listen the them all and read the lyrics and try to be a tough guy. I dare ya. 

"Goodbye My Lover" - James Blunt

Relationships are great, and love is wonderful...until it ends. Then it's like a vicious beastie that lives in your heart and soul and tears you apart from the inside out. This particular song by James Blunt was one I heard years earlier but I hadn't really had an impact on me. Until I saw this particular live performance. Mr. Blunt puts it ALL out there, leaves it all on the stage, takes you inside his pain and lets you feel it first hand. The "so hollow..." repeating at the end is just pulverizing. One of the best weepy ones going.

"Rain" - Patty Griffin

I have always loved Patty Griffin, and her song "Little Gods" which is on a still unreleased album, is a track I listen to often and has such a great, haunting chorus...but THIS song, especially the live version, is just flawless and amazing. It's an absolute staple in all my mellower playlists, and it's words will resonate with anyone who hasn't been blessed with perfect relationships their entire lives. So...all of us.

"Both Sides Now" - Joni Mitchell (re-recording 2003)

I had to note the specific version of this song because honestly the original song never did anything for me at all. This re recording by Mitchell in 2003 however is simply perfect. It was featured in the great film "Love Actually" in a pivotal scene (made more powerful by playing the whole song) and the hushed beauty and smoky raggedness of Mitchells voice is beautiful and mesmerizing and a million times more textured and intriguing than in the original recording.

"Sky Blue and Black" - Jackson Browne

This song has long been a favorite of mine, for it's beautiful words, echoing "that's the way love is..." at the end and the typical great vocals and arrangement of Browne, but it took on new meaning a year or so ago when I drove across half of the country with my father. We had "The Best of Jackson Browne" playing on repeat for much of the ride, and my dad would always turn this tune up just a little. He was a romantic and a dream like me, like Browne, and like so many of us. I think of my father a million times a day, but when I hear this song it's a with a bittersweet smile and a couple days worth of road memories that were crazy, fun and sad all in one. One of the best "love songs" ever written, in my opinion.

"Gatekeeper" - Meg Hutchinson

I had written about the beautiful and inspiration acoustic song from the gifted Meg Hutchinson a few years ago, and it's still an absolute favorite of mine. The song is about a cop in San Francisco who had a unique yet untrained gift of talking potential suicide jumpers off bridges in the Bay Area by simply engaging them in conversation about everyday life and their "plans for tomorrow". A great story and a wonderful song and artist.

"Sorrow" - The National

The National recently performed this popular yet very somber and dark song as part of an art project in Europe for 6 hours straight. Over and over the same song without Olympic-like endurance event focused on a very sad and haunting track. The first time I heard this song and Matt Beringer's lyric "I don't want to get over you" repeated in the chorus I was just chilled to the bone, almost hollow. It was so easy to connect with the tangible sadness in those words and the way he conveyed them. I recommended this track to a friend who had asked me to "help her purge some feelings of sadness about a break up" she had and wanted a song that might bring the emotions out. The text I received back shortly after was priceless: "Listened to Sorrow 10 times and have no face left. FUCK YOU". Exactly

"Codex"- Radiohead

This haunting track was recently featured in the dark movie "Prisoners" right near the end, but long before it showed up on the big screen it was giving me chills on the brilliant album King of Limbs. I generally like to read lyrics with songs I connect with deeply on a musical level or where the melody intrigues me but I have yet to do that with "Codex" because I don't know what Thom Yorke is saying and I don't care, I just know that's it makes me shiver and tingle in strange places and that's enough.

"Why Should I Cry For You?" - Sting

Sting is a great artist, but I have never been as big a fan of his solo work as I was he work with The Police. When they reunited, the show I saw them perform on that tour was one of the greatest I had EVER seen. A musical lesson in jazz/rock fusion and artistry. However, this ballad by Sting always got to me. It's not complicated songwriting or anything mind blowing but it's just a great song, and the way Sting delivers the line "Sometimes I see your face...stars seem to lose their place" is perfect. A long time favorite.

"Gravity" - Sara Bareilles

If you've ever been in a bad relationship and found it difficult to break away...or been lured back to said relationship because the ex lover is like your own personal kryptonite, then this song will resonate with you. It's dark and sad and real and just nails it.

"All I Need" - Matt Kearney

I saw Matt Kearney a few years back and he's a great artist. A regular guy that actually came out into the audience at Toads place and just walked amongst the crowd and sand some of his great songs like he was hanging with friends. His voice has often been compared to Chris Martin of Coldplay but it was pointed out to me today that he's got a little Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) as well, and I can definitely hear that. On this song I particularly love the way the end builds and how he wraps his voice around that. Great song.

(Bonus # 11!)
"Beth/Rest" - Bon Iver

One of the truly great modern bands out there, made up of the singer/guitarist and primary member Justin Vernon, Bon Iver is a band that has fans as wide ranging as rap stars to metalheads. This particular song that closes the brilliant album "Bon Iver" from a few years ago has a distinct 80's-ish ballad feel that actually created a lot of negative attention by longtime fans of the band who called it everything from "A bad Richard Marx impression" to "a shitty tune that was almost written to just appear on a Muzak playlist". I immediately love the track, with it's soft country twang and yes, subtle 80's feel. Reading the lyrics will likely just make you scratch your head but venture there if you must. Also check out "Blood Bank" from their earlier EP. An all time favorite song.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

5 Bands/Artists You Should Be Listening To

The excuse of there being "no good bands around" has never held any weight with me, but if all you listen to is Pop Radio then you might be inclined to believe it. If you tune into the Alternative channels, Indie Rock stations and such ( is a great place to start) you will discover a wealth of exceptional music you never knew existed. I am focusing today's list on Alternative/Indie and Rock for now, but I will post recommendations from other styles in the future. Check these bands out now to add a little depth and color to your musical palette...

CHVRCHES - "Recover"

A newer "Synthpop" band from Scotland that's making a lot of noise right now and one that I am seriously hooked on. The entire album is great and the single "The Mother We Share" is also making the rounds on Alternative Radio. This is my favorite track from their debut "The Bones of What You Believe":

Gary Clark, Jr - "Numb"

Gary Clark, Jr. is Hendrix, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan all rolled into one and certainly at the top of the list of the more recent blues rock shredders. While not quite as proficient as Joe Bonamassa and without the pop sensibilities of a John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr's gritty and stripped down blues rock is raw and powerful and engaging still. He will be opening for Kings of Leon on their current tour.

Arcade Fire - "Afterlife"

Arcade Fire have been a favorite band of mine for a few years now and they have long been the Alt/Indie rock Gods, often being called the best band in the world. While this most recent CD "Reflektor" doesn't have the depth or richness of their previous, "The Suburbs", this CD has a few real high points including this first to last on the CD (followed by the hypnotic album closer Supersymetry).

The Vaccines - If You Wanna

So the "English Strokes" have been around since 2010 or so and have been gaining lots of momentum with opening spots for The Rolling Stones, Arcade Fire and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their blend of Ramones-like fury and Interpol's texture provides for a band that will please fans of all styles of Rock and Roll. The Vaccines aren't breaking any new ground, but they are reinvigorating the landscape that's already been here since the 70's.

Shearwater - You As You Were" 

When I first discovered this band from Austin, TX, after hearing this track on, I played this song and a few others off their Album "Animal Joy" incessantly. The blend of Jonathons Meiburg's dramatic vocals and the haunting alternative rock supporting it just had me hooked. Around since 2001, Shearwater are a favorite amongst the Indie Rock elite.


Writing: The Most Rewarding Form of Self Torture

One of the best books I've read in the last few years is "The Courage to Write" by Ralph Keyes. Without doing a full review, i...