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.

The Old and The Independent: Songs I Listen To

Well, I’m not really rebelling against mainstream music nowadays (although there are really several reasons to do otherwise). I still listen to Maroon 5, Adele, Drake, Sara Bareilles, Coldplay, Jason Mraz, to name a few. It’s just that I realized that there were and are better options out there, music being an infinite ocean of possibilities and genres. So I figured, if my generation serves me types of music I don’t really like, might as well go sail on oceans previously sailed on, and oceans rarely navigated on.

So with a little help of curiosity and flaky internet connection and some help from some people, I can say that I have set sail successfully on some new and some old oceans of music.

SKINNY LOVE – Bon Iver

Justin Vernon, vocalist of Bon Iver has a very distinct style and sound to back his good lyrics. And among his songs – Holocene, For Emma, Forever Ago and his rendition of I Can’t Make You Love Me- Skinny Love is probably the catchiest. Vernon’s ball breaking falsetto and it’s very catchy chorus made Skinny Love a song that is hard not to like.

(Singer Birdy made a piano cover of this song, making it less ball breaking, more heart breaking.)

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

I told you to be patient
I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind

THE BRIGHTEST LIGHTS – King Charles feat. Mumford & Sons

This collaboration between London artists, indie musician King Charles and my favorite Mumford & Sons is a pleasantly written piece with influences of folk. King Charles has a lot of nice, indie sounding songs such as Love Lust and Ivory Road. Had I not seen Mumford on this track, I wouldn’t have checked it out. But, man, I was glad I did.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

The brightest lights
Cast the darkest shadows,
And that’s where I’ll be found,
For what’s hiding by the morning
Will be chased by daylight’s hounds.

THE GHOSTS THAT WE KNEW – Mumford & Sons

This track is part of the folk rock band’s yet to be released second album, Babel. Staying loyal to the band’s repertoire, this song is really raw and very well written. Also included in their sophomore record is the carrier single I Will Wait, which has an alternate version entitled Nothing Is Written.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold on as long as you like
Just promise me that we’ll be alright

LEGO HOUSE – Ed Sheeran

Lego House is Ed Sheeran’s second big single following his emotional and well-written hit, The A Team. Although I sometimes find some parts of his songs a bit off, he has a knack for writing good lyrics. Save for the rap-like parts, Lego House is a pretty catchy love song.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

I’m out of touch, I’m out of love
I’ll pick you up when you’re getting down
And out of all these things I’ve done I think I love you better now

WE DON’T EAT – James Vincent McMorrow

A beautifully written piece, especially the chorus, We Don’t Eat is one of indie singer James Vincent Mcmorrow’s better songs. Like most indie artists, McMorrow writes good lyrics and has a distinct sound and vibe. Like Bon Iver’s Vernon, he uses his falsetto.  Also notable is McMorrow’s most successful hit to date, Higher Love.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

That we don’t eat until your father’s at the table
We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust
Never once has any man I’ve met been able to love
So if I were you, I’d have a little trust

BOY WITH A COIN – Iron & Wine

Samuel Beam, or Iron & Wine, has been around for a while, having released several records and compilations. The only song I know by him, Boy With a Coin has a very catchy tune and a very interesting MV.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

A boy with a coin he crammed in his jeans
Then making a wish he tossed in the sea
Walked to a town that all of us burn
When God left the ground to circle the world

WHISTLE FOR THE CHOIR – The Fratellis

A song from the Scottish indie-rock band’s debut record, Costello Music, Whistle For the Choir is the band’s third single. The song is a very fun to listen to, very apt for a serenade, track about finding an irresistible girl. Also among the band’s songs I like are  Ole Black and Blue Eyes and the catchy Chelsea Dagger.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

So if you’re lonely why’d you say you’re not lonely
Oh you’re a silly girl, I know I hurt it so
It’s just like you to come
And go you know me no you don’t even know me
You’re so sweet to try, oh my, you caught my eye,
A girl like you’s just irresistible

ADDICTED TO LOVE – Robert Palmer

This is Palmer’s most successful hit, with good lyrics and melody. Several artists have covered the song. Among them are Tina Turner, Westlife, and most recently, Florence and The Machine.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

You like to think that you’re immune to the stuff…oh yeah
It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough
You know you’re gonna have to face it
You’re addicted to love

SUMMER OF ’69 – Bryan Adams

The only Bryan Adams song I really know is his 1985 hit ‘Heaven’. It turns out that ‘Summer of ’69’ is the single following ‘Heaven’, both from his fourth album ‘Reckless’. If not for the MTV Unplugged CD lying around our house, I wouldn’t have discovered this very easy-to-listen-to song.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

Standin’ on your mama’s porch
You told me that you’d wait forever
Oh and when you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life

BRICK – Ben Folds Five

The 1998 hit of the now defunct Ben Folds Five band was actually about the band’s front man’s girlfriend and the abortion they had to do way back. With its sad  lyrics and melody and a very catchy chorus, ‘Brick’ is the bands biggest hit.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

She’s a brick and I’m drowning slowly
Off the coast and I’m headed nowhere
She’s a brick and I’m drowning slowly

RICH GIRL – Hall & Oates

I know Daryl Hall and John Oates had quite a big following back in the day, and I might even be a part of it. Rich Girl is the duo’s first number 1 single back in 1977. The song is very catchy and straightforward, with a very endearing chorus. ‘Maneater’ and ‘You Make My Dreams’ are among my favorite Hall & Oates tracks.

LYRICS that SOLD the SONG:

High and dry, out of the rain
It’s so easy to hurt others when you can’t feel pain
And don’t you know that a love can’t grow
‘Cause there’s too much to give, ’cause you’d rather live
For the thrill of it all, oh