The Listening Room is once again alive and kicking. I can't remember why we took the brief hiatus, so best not to think too much about it. We're back with more musical musing and recommendations. This week, there are five steps to instant cool- and a suggestion I can only hope is a very guilty pleasure (I'm trying really hard not to glare in your general direction, Brewster).
They may not be the best songs ever, they may not even be our favorites, but they kept us entertained last week. You could do worse than to try a few of them out and see what they do for you.
Josh Hathaway: “Given to Fly” from Yield by Pearl Jam
I wrote about this song over at Confessions of a Fanboy today because two separate, recent events coaxed it from my memory. I'm going to avoid re-hashing those reasons other than to say I'd love it if you decided to find out what they are for yourself. For those of you who can't be arsed to follow that link, here's a little bit more about the song (it's all about the standalone here at BC Magazine):
I'm kind of amazed Jimmy Page didn't call his lawyer, because the verses to this song could hardly resemble “Going to California” any more without being a cover version. There's a thin line between influenced and derivative, and if you keep walking you cross over The Great Ripoff Reef. Don't let that discourage you from discovering, or rediscovering, this song because this song gloriously departs from the Zeppelin classic and – the cliché police will crush me for this one – takes flight, streaking across the sky in a blaze of soaring emotion. “Given to Fly” is authentic even if it's not completely original- authenticity is more important.
Pico: "Foreplay/Long Time" from Boston by Boston
Well, I'm finally holding my personal Brad Delp memorial today by revisiting Boston's debut album. This LP may hold the distinction of being the only album where every baby boomer knows every song without having to own the record. In fact, it pretty much introduced the whole concept of "album rock" (and arguably, "arena rock").
Although over 30 years old now and played to death over the airwaves even today, Boston still sounds fresh and suspended in time. It's due to a number of things: heavy metal that is married more to Beatle-esque melodic hooks than the blues; that huge arena rock sound; and Brad Delp's vocals.
His sweetly soaring tenor was a perfect match for band leader Tom Scholz's grand sound; it was high pitched enough to get heard over all the cascading electric guitars, but much more agreeable to the ear than, say, Geddy Lee. And while he can rock hard like the best of them, he's perhaps more at home on the soulful numbers, such as "Long Time."
Boston's lyrics weren't ever particularly deep, but when Delp sings "Well I'm takin' my time, I'm just movin' on/You'll forget about me after I've been gone", I can't help but think that he was singing about himself, decades later. But he's wrong: no one will soon forget about him. Rest in peace, Mr. Delp.
Glen Boyd: "My Love Is Too Much" from Zipless by Vanessa Daou
Vanessa Daou is this completely unknown singer who also happens to hold the distinction of recording the single most erotic sounding album I have ever heard. Think of the smoky torchiness of someone like Sade, and then apply it to what it might sound like recording your girlfriend as she achieves multiple orgasms and you begin to get the idea here.
Simply put, since I first heard this album in the late nineties, I have never heard anything quite like it since. The playing here, which falls squarely into the late night chill feel is simply exquisite, while Daou's heavily breathed vocals invoke something else entirely that I can't quite put into words, but most red-blooded guys (and more than a few gals) would get instantly. Based loosely around the literary writings of feminist author Erica Jong, tracks like this one as well as "Becoming a Nun," and "The Long Tunnel Of Wanting You" leave little to the imagination in terms of "setting a mood."
Gentlemen, forget those Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye records. This is an eargasm to truly be appreciated.
God, I love this woman.
Michael Jones: "Starlight" from Black Holes and Revelations by Muse
This past Wednesday I found myself seated in Nashville's Municipal Auditorium, suffering through a fierce head cold and the prospect of having to drive back home to Arkansas in the morning so that my sister could achieve Nirvana and see her favorite band My Chemical Romance in concert. While I'd heard of said "favorite band" (repeatedly!), it was the opening act that had me lifting up my aching head so that I could see who was responsible for the amazing music that was breaking through my allergies. The band's name? Muse.
For forty-five minutes or so, these guys pretty much blew me away. I'd expected another bombastic emo band kind of a sound, as that's what MCR sounds like… instead I got this wonderfully lush guitar driven band. It's… well, it's hard to describe how Muse sound. If you were to take a healthy dose of the experimentalism of Queen, add in the guitar wail of Steve Vai, and then mix it all up in a giant glass with a double-dose of Pink Floyd's sense of endless groove for a purpose, that might come close.
On the way home, somewhere around Memphis, we stopped at a Circuit City and purchased their newest album. Then we alternated listening to it, and to MCR's latest album, all the way home. Joy! Sigh. Anyways, while the MCR was what it was and made my sis happy, when the Muse CD's turn came, I kept wanting to hear this one particular song. "Starlight" was either the first or second song these guys played in concert, and it's just one hell of a song, filled with soaring vocals, dense back beats, and a healthy sense of self.
I've since discovered that Muse have been around for a few years. So, I'm itching to pick up their older albums, sooner than later. All in all… I suppose getting to discover new music was worth the crushing headache and stuffed-up nose. Check out Muse for yourself, if you don't believe me.
El Bicho: "Just Like Honey" live from Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival by Jesus and Mary Chain with Scarlett Johannson
Playing their second gig since they broke up in 1998, it was great seeing the Reid brothers delivering their fuzzed-out gloomy tunes to a large, appreciative crowd. At least those who hadn't passed out from exhaustion from the sweltering heat or whatever they may have ingested and couldn’t handle.
I hadn’t listened to JAMC in a long while and had slightly forgot about them as bands like The Raveonettes stepped up in their place, but it’s good to have the originals back. Hopefully for a while if their writing a new song is an indication that they plan on working passed this initial reunion over the summer.
Celebrities were spotted throughout Coachella, but none was more noticeable than Scarlett Johansson who joined JAMC on vocals for “Just Like Honey,” a fitting cameo as the song played during the end of Lost in Translation. It was good, so good.
Mat Brewster: "Shameless" by Garth Brooks from Ropin the Wind
Yeah, I know, Garth freaking Brooks. But I grew up in Oklahoma, which is pretty, much ground zero for Garth Brooks. Every time I go back home my mom tells me about another time she saw Garth eating a sandwich at Burger King or wherever.
I was mostly a metal-head in high school, but the behemoth that is Garth Brooks still kind of got to me. I can remember sitting up in my little attic bedroom late at night, listening to this album real low. Say what you will, but this Billy Joel cover has a mountain of energy and just the right amount of cheezy swagger that still bowls me over.
In my continuing effort to put everything piece of music I own on my iPod, I went through my Garth Brooks box set (yes, I have a Garth Brooks box set, it was cheap and you'll get over it.) I gotta say I went all nostalgic with it, and had a few listens and might have dropped a tear or two in my beer.