"Hard to Cry" – The Bewitched Hands on Top of Our Heads
Click here to play MP3.
What is it that makes one song insanely popular and another fall into obscurity. What makes us individually love certain songs and cringe at others? Some songs are easy. Take anything in the Beatles catalog for example. "Love Me Do" or "Drive My Car" contain simple lyrics that are easily to sing along with. The melodies are insanely catchy and the rhythms upbeat and fun. But what does that even mean? How is the melody catchy? I try to explain why I like certain songs and I always come up short. Maybe I don't have the right musical language, or maybe music is too elusive to capture in words.
It all changes anyways. The songs I loved back in the day now often sound stupid and ridiculous to my ears now. The opposite is true too – albums I once shrugged in indifference at, I now place atop my favorites pile. The byline for this series notes that my mileage may vary the day after I write the article. I've found this to be true. There are songs that I rave about one day and then listen to the next day and wonder what I was talking about.
Dolly Parton once sang "love is strange" that's surely true, and I'll add, so is music.
The Bewitched Hands at the Top of Our Heads are not the Beatles (as if you couldn't figure that out by just looking at possibly the oddest, and longest, band name in show-business.) "Hard to Cry" isn't insanely catchy, full of simple melodies and lyrics. Its qualities are much more difficult to pigeonholed. Yet is is wonderful just the same. It begins with a collage of vocal sounds that sound like an echoing dream. The sounds then meld into a single, repeated lyric. Just when you think you've understood what's going on, it changes, and changes again. The sounds bend and morph and come back to the same lyrics again and again.
It likely will never be a huge pop smash. It likely won't be loved by everyone who hears it. Hell I might not like it tomorrow. Great songs are often like that. Too complicated to be mass consumed. Too elusive to write simple blurbs about. That's something worth loving, even if that love is fleeting.
Check out the Bewitched Hands on Top of Our Heads at Myspace.
"My Name is Lion" – The Morning Pages
From the album Rising Rain
Click here to listen to the MP3.
Had their bio not told me so, I would have never guessed The Morning Pages were from the urban streets of Brooklyn. Their country roots sounds suggests a home under the stars, out in the woods. "My Name is Lion" is a soft, casual groove that recall a fishing trip, or a walk in the back fields with the dogs. It sounds a little like a friendlier, more laid back version of Kings of Leon.
The song starts with a sweet little string arrangement which quickly slips into a lulling acoustic vibe and some great harmonic key tingling. Grant Maxwell's voice carries the song with open arms. The groove vibrates upwards to a great crescendo and then back again to a gentle wave and then up again for more of the same.
The new album, Rising Rain is out May 10. Until then catch up with them at their Myspace page.
"I Learned the Hard Way" – Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
From the album I Learned the Hard Way
Grab the MP3 from this website.
I wrote yesterday that I'm a sucker for a soul-sucking sad song. That's still true, but I'll add that no other genre writes such danceable, proud sad songs as classic R&B. There is nothing quite like Aretha or Etta James busting a move while shedding them tears at the same time. These days there are a lot of folks trying to make songs just as good, but just as often they fall flat. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings have found a way to tape right into the righteous blood of their soul-mothers without sounding patronizing or dull.
"I Learned the Hard Way" is straight out of early Motown with just the slightest touch of the harder Motor City sound a la the MC5 (just check out those machine gun drums if you disagree.) Sharon sings about her man doing her wrong with the grit and strength of a woman who's been down that road before, but with enough hurt to let us know she's still a woman with feelings that hurt. The music swings and rattles and moves with that classic sound. The backup singers lay down the point with efficiency.
The album comes out April 6. You can order it direct from Daptone Records.
Here's a clip of Sharon playing with Michael Bublé on Saturday Night Live.