Notes on Music: Shut Up, Listen, Then Talk (to me)

 Everybody thinks that they are somehow better at something, just one thing, than everybody else. And if that being-better-than-everybody-else didn’t come off as obviously as it should, people brag. They jibber-jabber about it like crazy.

If there is one thing in life that bothers me (problem is, there is not just one thing in life that bothers me) is my lack of opportunity to talk to friends about music. I think it would be fun to have a breezy conversation with friends, perhaps over a couple of drinks, about which new songs are good or what new bands have great sound or how OneDirection sucks and how black Justin Bieber tries to be. You know, we can share links or exchange tracks or have a track-by-track analysis of new albums. But, no, things like that don’t happen in my world.

I am no expert and definitely not as knowledgeable as I hope I am with music, but, truth be told, I am kind of snob. I’m in no way saying that I am in a much superior musical high ground than most of the people I know. I am guilty of listening to trash pop and old love songs. I like Ke$ha and Air Supply (definitely not in the same level, but I like them just the same). But at least I try to improve my taste. And just because I don’t listen to the hit songs that much and I listen to songs that aren’t too overplayed doesn’t mean that I’m not in the know. (A “friend” once laughed at me for playing Mumford & Sons aloud. Bastard.)

So, here I am blogging my old blog just to put things out there. You know, some points I want to raise if ever I get to a music conversation with someone ever. (If you happen to even read this, feel free to think what you want but save your judgments to yourselves. I do a whole lot of judging myself, I don’t need help.)

*Sara Bareilles has a New Record

Sara Bareilles just released her new record entitled “The Blessed Unrest”. And just like her previous ones, her lyrics are impeccable (with the right mixture of poetic and sometimes cheesy writing). The sound of her new album is still very her, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t changed anything. Still bubbly and heart-breaking and quirky, with a nice kick.

Just like with her previous records, there’s always a bunch of tracks that really stand-out for me. And by that, I mean that only a majority of songs that make it to my mobile playlist. Among the songs from “The Blessed Unrest” that do it for me are “1000 Times”, “I Choose You” and “Manhattan”. The carrier single “Brave” and the bonus track “Parking Lot” aren’t bad, too.

*OneRepubic > 1D, M5

The reason why OneRepublic is not the more famous band with their name starting with one is beyond me. Well, I think that OneRepublic is a bit underrated as a band. If I were to listen to falsettos, I would rather listen to Ryan Tedder’s than to Adam Levine’s. But more people prefer the latter. I guess good lyrics and sound don’t guarantee off the charts, over the top success.

Anyway, I’m really digging OneRepublic’s latest album, “Native”. It’s diverse but it doesn’t stray too far from their previous hits like “Stop and Stare” and “Secrets”. The singles off Native, “If I Lose Myself” and “Counting Stars”, are both promising and very catchy. But my favorite track is “Burning Bridges”. It must be the melody, or the guitar, or the lyrics that really sell the song. Perhaps even the falsetto on the chorus, but no complaining.

*I Think I Know a Lot About Damien Rice

I have only tried listening to Damien Rice very recently. And I’m really glad that I did. There’s something very organic about his songs. He sounds like Jason Mraz but less poppy. Maybe even like James Morrison but less dramatic. His songs, lyrically and melodically, are very raw and on point without being in your face. Gritty but not abrasive.

Of course, I really like his song “Volcano” (who wouldn’t?) There’s also “Cannonball”, “The Blower’s Daughter” and the very brilliant “Unplayed Piano”.

*”The Civil Wars” Have Internal Discord, New Self-Titled Album

Internal discord. That’s the reason given by Joy Williams and John Paul White, collectively known as The (Awesome) Civil Wars, when they announced their hiatus. It’s not that I’m affected by any of their several cancelled shows, but it’s just that the two of them do break-ups and chaos so well in their songs and it just seems like an overkill to really take that personally and take a break from one another. Needless to say, they really are good together. Winning Grammys and all.

But hiatus or not, they are set to release their self-titled sophomore album early next month. If we are to believe their press statements, they are saying that the new record tackles whatever went on that brought about the break the band’s taking. And if we will base it on the whole feel of the carrier single “The One That Got Away”, seems like some serious shit is going on. The song is big, bold and heart-breaking. On a lighter note, though, their other song off the record called “From This Valley” is a bit subdued and a whole lot catchy.

*I Don’t Have to Try Hard to Like Daft Punk

It turns out that Daft Punk has been around since forever. Forgive my ignorance but I must’ve spent a lot of time on the pop rock I live under. But it’s not really hard to figure Daft Punk out. They made the soundtrack for “Tron: Legacy”, they wear helmets when they play, they do EDM, which means that they are pretty cool; ergo, I’m jumping into this whole Daft Punk bandwagon.

But all jokes and being a push-over aside, their latest album “Random Access Memories” is not hard to enjoy. With its mixture of disco beats, collaborations with other artists (yay actual lyrics!) and same robot feels, RAM rightly deserves all the hype. There’s the highly successful collaboration with Pharell Williams, “Get Lucky” and a bunch of other dance-able in the club and/or the shower tracks like “Lose Yourself to Dance”, “Instant Crush” and “Fragments of Time”.

*I Have to Try Hard to Like Francis and the Lights

There is also this guy, by the way, Francis and the Lights, who has some good stuff to offer too. According to this guy’s Wikipedia page, his genre is piano rock and R&B and his last name is Starlite. Whatever, especially on the genres he choose to associate himself with. As far as I’m concerned, he’s sleepy slippity bop. And I mean that he’s quite good.

He has some sick (ugh) beats on his songs, which don’t sound as raw as piano rocks go but not half bad, too. I personally like “ETC” and “It’ll Be Better”.

*”Frightened Rabbit” has a Good Case of Potty Mouth

There’s something so different about bands from the United States and those from the United Kingdom, and I am not just talking about the way both sides say can and can’t. I mean, with their sounds. But you don’t have to take my word for it. To underscore that, there’s Mumford and Sons from London, which has become the poster boys of folk rock. Those guys are good. Then there’s The Script from Ireland, which is mostly “pogi rock” with some good songs and a sloppy third album. Then there’s The Fray from Colorado, which is mostly piano rock and criminally underrated. (Truth be told, I just wanted to namedrop those bands. Just because, eh.)

Anyway, there’s this Scottish indie band calling themselves “Frightened Rabbit”. They are really an indie rock band, not quite as quirky sounding as The Fratellis, but very distinct just the same. Some good songs from them are “The Woodpile”, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” and “If You Were Me”. And, oh, their song “Keep Yourself Warm” is really awesome. They sing: “You can’t find love in a hole… it takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.”

LSS: Zooey & M. (She & Him)

Apart from being always, always quirky in her roles, it turns out that there is still more to love about Zooey Deschanel. It’s no surprise that she can really sing, given that her voice has a really deep quality about it. And it turns out that as she was playing bit roles on films (way before her big TV break with New Girl), Zooey Deschanel was a musician first.

Of course there’s her very cool performance of “Sugar Town” on (500) Days of Summer, but her thing with singing is way bigger than her big blue eyes. It’s no secret that she’s in a band, She & Him, with M. Ward and I’m kinda bummed that it’s only until recently that I have started listening to their songs.

So far they have released two albums, with another one to be released real soon. It’s quite hard to go far down their catalogue, at least for me, mainly because there’s just too many songs from them. But I try, really hard, and it isn’t too difficult because I really dig their sound. With a very indie, retro, quirky vibe brought about by Deschanel’s vocals and all the instruments, played by both members, incorporated with their songs, listening to them is almost as easy as watching Zooey Deschanel on-screen.

A few of my favorites are Change is Hard (Volume 1), a cover of You Really Got A Hold On Me (Volume 1), Me and You (Volume 2) and their newest single called Never Wanted Your Love from their upcoming record- you guessed it- Volume 3.

LSS: The World from the Side of The Moon, Phillip Phillips

Several months after winning the eleventh season of American Idol, Phillip Phillips releases his debut record entitled ‘The World from the Side of The Moon’.

Looking back on his track record during the run of AI, Phillip has consistently showed promise and individuality week after week. He is the anti-thesis of the cookie cutter reality show pop star. Defiant, unique and unexpected. I must admit that I was rooting for him (and Elise Testone) because of the uniqueness they have in their sound. Phillips has had quite a few performances on the show that has made him miles ahead of the competition.

His inevitable win last May was only made sweeter by arguably one of the best coronation Idol song in a long time, ‘Home’. Gone were the seasons when the winner sings a very inspirational song which tells everybody to dream and whatnot. Well, I think Kris Allen was the last Idol winner to have one of those “empowering” songs to accompany his win. I think it’s a wise move, actually, especially now that other than a dream, an internet connection is very important if you want to be famous.

In the past three AI seasons (which nobody really remembers), the winners sing their potential single. Whatever happened to the past few WGWG singles, nobody knows. But with ‘Home’, Idol became relevant again. With it’s hip folk touch and Phillips raspy voice, one can say that Idol is finally back on track.

But strip the competition and comparisons down, how does Phillips’ ‘The World from the Side of The Moon’ stand?

After listening to the whole album on end for a couple of times, it is undeniable that Phillip is really going on to drive his sound as an individual across. Having written and co-written most of the tracks, it gave PP the freedom to express his artistry. But for me, I think he has either hit or miss on some of the tracks. The opening song, “Man on The Moon” for example really sets the mood and shows the sound of Phillips. The songs “Gone, Gone, Gone” and “Where We Came From” follow suit on this showcase of diversity. The more upbeat tracks “Get Up Get Down” and “Drive Me” remind me of his more outstanding performances on Idol with their sing-along and groovy qualities. But his more emotional songs “Wanted is Love” and “A Fool’s Dance” feel a bit flat for me. But my favorite track on the album has got to be “So Easy” because, well, it’s just so easy to listen to.

All in all, I think Phillip’s debut record is not bad at all. I like his lyrics because he writes in such a way that it sounds raw, yet poetic. Does he sound better now than when he was competing in Idol? Yes. Because he now has a certain level of comfort that he might not have when he was performing others’ songs. Does he stand out as much as he did on the competition? Probably not as much but still not too bad for a unique sounding guy.