A day late and… a day late. I've got nothing. It was bound to happen sooner or later, that a weekly edition of The Listening Room would slip from Monday to Tuesday. I have a good excuse this week. You can read my excuse and consider it a supplement to this very installment of The Listening Room. Your compliance is appreciated.
These 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.
DJRadiohead: "Psychotic Breakdown" from Degradation Trip Vol. 1 & 2 by Jerry Cantrell
I guess that tells you everything you need to know about my mental state of the last week then, doesn't it? Alice in Chains fans know how much Jerry Cantrell meant to the sound of the band, but it is almost scary to listen to tracks like this. Jerry will never be able to fully summon Layne Staley's vocal powers, but he can mimic them a bit and he does on this song. Layne's energy is certainly lurking here and Jerry has rarely sounded better. His layered, detuned vocals and detuned guitars have an integrity and power the nu-metal clones that followed never got right. "Psychotic Breakdown" would have been hugely popular if it had appeared on an AiC record.
Mark Saleski: "Rehab" from Back To Black by Amy Winehouse.
I've had two musical whiplash experiences recently caused by seeing performances on the television. The first was due to Lily Allen and her appearance on Saturday Night Live. She played "Smile" and my reaction was something like: What The Hell Was THAT?!
Similarly, I caught Amy Winehouse on David Letterman's Late Show. Out comes a woman with a straight-lined dress, heels, giant hair and mega-makeup. I have no idea what this is going to sound like. She launches into "Rehab" and I am transfixed. With a big 'ole horn section and backup singers, Winehouse sounds like the evil side of Diana Ross. Or Something.
Michael Jones: "Sowing Season" from The Devil and God are raging inside me. by Brand New
For weeks I'd been staring at this interesting looking cd cover, only to shake my head and decide not to purchase it. I'd never heard of the band, you see, and buying it simply because I thought the cover was interesting… weird, right? Eventually, I caved (the relatively low price helped) and bought it. I'm so glad I did.
The music enwrapped in the artwork has turned out to be one of the best I've heard so far, this year. Dark lyrics, gorgeous melodies that rise and fall at the whim of whatever emotion the song is trying to channel, all serve to make this a complicated and complete album. That's a rare word, these days.
"Sowing Season" starts off with this slow and melancholy give and take with the vocals and a soft guitar melody, only to explode into this heavy crunch of emotion and sound. Sure, there is nothing new about having dynamics in a song, but such things are standards because they truly work when they're done correctly. Brand New, on "Sowing Season," without a doubt, has it down pat. Just a killer opening track to a wonderful album.
Ian Woolstencroft "Innocent Days" from Last of the Runaways by Giant
This is a prime slice of classic 80’s hard rock, all big guitars and big choruses (not to mention big hair). At it's heart is Dann Huff, providing both screeching guitar and emotive vocals.
Picking a track from Giant’s debut wasn’t easy, it’s packed full of great songs but this one kind of summed up my feelings. This album and others like it were the soundtrack to my late teens/early twenties, a time when anything seemed possible. “These are the innocent days” sings Dann Huff and you know what? He was right.
So I'm not sure if this really qualifies for The Listening Room or not, but this week an amazing show from Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductee Patti Smith was added over at Wolfgang's Vault, and I can't stop listening to it.
Starting off with an incredible reading of "Land" from Horses that segues seamlessly into "Land of 1000 Dances", Patti and the boys are extremely loose throughout this two hour set. The best parts come toward the middle with a four song sweep that begins with "Dancing Barefoot," moves quickly through "Space Monkey" and "Privilege" from Easter and then winds up with a ferocious "25th Floor," which finds the band sounding particularly muscular. There are also several choice covers here, ranging from John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" to the Yardbirds "For Your Love" (with Lenny Kaye on lead vocals!). The Patti Smith Group of this period was renowned for it's live performances, and this one is no exception.
By the time I finish reviewing a CD, I usually have one or two songs that I keep coming back to over the next few days and weeks. The most recent is Michelle Mangione's "Prisoner of War." The song begins minimally with an acoustic guitar and Mangione's voice, backed with a little bit of accordion. As the song shifts into the chorus, a little percussion is added, and then electric guitar. The build-up of instrumentation is classic acoustic pop-rock, and it does a good job of following the lyrical ebbs and flows. Every time this song comes around on shuffle, my ears perk up and I can't stop bobbing my head along with the beat. The whole album is good, but for some reason the combination of lyrics and music keeps drawing me back to this track in particular.