Song of the day: The Whims – "Over My Shoulder"

January 31, 2013

Today’s request is from a band called The Whims who have just released their self-titled debut album. It was released on 8 January (or if you live in America, January 8.)

I think for this post I’ll zip through the album and give you my first impressions…

The Whims – The Whims (2013)

1. “Over My Shoulder”

0:00-0:26 – “Doo-oo-oo-oo-oo, doo-oo-oo-oo-oo”. I like it. There’s something about that melody in this intro that makes me think this is a power pop version of “Here Comes The Sun“. Yep. I like it.

0:26-0:53 – The verse has started, and I’m not enjoying the lead singer’s voice all that much. I don’t think it’s horrible in any way, just not great. I am enjoying everything else about the verse, though. I think it’s reassuringly traditional, in a “traditional power pop” kind of way.

0:53-1:19 – The “Doo-oo-oo-oo-oo, doo-oo-oo-oo-oo” came back. Yay! However, I wasn’t all that keen on the guitar playing the G note in the background from 1:17-1:19. The song’s in E major, which means that any G you play has to be a G sharp. Sharp! Otherwise it’ll annoy a person living in South Australia called Peter.

1:19-2:12 – Unfortunately, I’m enjoying the lead singer’s voice less in this verse. He’s a bit flat in places – but at least there are some harmony vocals to help take my mind off the flatitude. There’s a little stop-start kind of thing at the end of this verse (2:09-2:12), and I like it. (“I know that. It’s over. It’s over. My shoulder.”)

2:12-2:39 – “Here comes the sun…” I liked the drum fill from 2:14-2:16. And the one from 2:37-2:39. He sure is a frisky drummer.

2:39-3:02 – A rudimentary guitar solo. But it’s melodic. Except for the note I didn’t like at 2:51.

3:02-3:13 – The guitarist finished his solo, and the band finishes the song by playing an E major chord and letting it fade. Unfortunately for me, the last note of the guitarist’s solo (at 3:02) was ever-so-slightly flat, and I really wanted him to tune it up just enough to be in tune.
Overall, I liked “Over My Shoulder”.

2. “Hard To Believe”

I like this. It’s nice ‘n’ glam.

Yep. This gets Peter’s Stamp Of Approval. (If there was one.)

3. “Pick Me Up”

Although I’m not enjoying this one as much as the first two songs, I’m not minding it at all.
It may just be me, but I’m bothered by the singer’s intonation. (It’s frequently a little flat.) I’m not bothered by the songs so far, ‘cos I like ’em, but I really wish the singer had recorded a few more takes, especially in this song.
It won’t stop me liking the songs, though.

4. “Losing The Plot”

You can’t hurry love…
I like this. The singer sounds more nasal in this song than he did earlier, but I don’t care. I like the song. It’s boppy.

0:49-0:53 – Nice vocal harmonies.

1:22-1:27 – When the guitarist was playing his solo, did he forget what key the song was in? Or was he imagining he was playing a solo in a heavy rock song?

1:57-2:01 – They really are nice, those vocal harmonies.

2:33-2:35 – Frisky Drummer Strikes Again.

5. “Fall Behind”

It seems that all albums that could be described (by me) as “traditional power pop” must include at least one song that contains the “Be My Baby” drum beat.

2:22-2:55 – I like the guitar solo. I think the playing is a bit sloppy in places, but I like the notes that were chosen.

A question for the producer: Was there an edit at 2:55.380? From what I hear, it sounds like a suspiciously clean transition from the solo to the chorus.

3:31-3:33 – Dig that stereo drum fill. Crazy, man, crazy!

I was going to say that I wasn’t terribly keen on the guitar sounds in this song (especially the one in the right channel), but the guitarist likes the sounds he likes, and it’s all a matter of personal taste, so I won’t mention it.

6. “Your Letter”

Either the action on the bass player’s bass is very low, or he’s hitting those strings pretty hard. Either way, I’m distracted by the sound of the pickups being hit frequently. (Click, click, click, click…)

I can’t talk, though, because when I was in a band I used to hit my bass strings really hard.
As for the song, I’m finding it enjoyable-ish. (It’s possibly my least favourite track on the album.) The lead vocals are still annoying me slightly. Unfortunately, in this song the lead singer has a touch of the Kevin Cronins, in that he’s over-emphasising the letter “r” in “letter”. Hearing someone sing “letterrrrrrr” tends to give me the heebies jeebies.

7. “Leave Your Name”

Who decided to ask a young Michael Stipe to sing guest vocals on this song?

8. “Rest Stop”

This sounds to me like Big Star playing Britpop. I can live with that.

9. “Fault Lines”

I’m not entirely sure why, but when this one started I thought of The Cure. (It was probably the guitar chords in the introduction.) As this song progressed, I ended up liking it more than the previous two songs. No, make that the previous three songs.

10. “See Jane Run”

Hmm. I wouldn’t have mind the singing to be more secure. And I tired of that crash cymbal being hit constantly. Unfortunately, it was replaced by a hit-hat I thought was too loud. But I liked the song. Just not some elements of it. I would like to compliment the drummer on having a break from all that cymbal smashing, from 2:22-2:50. It was very welcome break. But at 2:50 he started bashing his cymbals again. Grrr. But it was only for another minute-and-a-quarter. Then my ears had a rest until the next song.

11. “These Days”

0:03-0:33 – Oh no. Those cymbals again. At least they’re a quieter in this song.

0:33-0:48 – I’ve never understood why I loathe that particular drum beat, but I loathe that particular drum beat.

Despite evidence to the contrary (see immediately above), I like this song.

1:33-2:02 – Mmm: jangly guitar. Unfortunately, someone decided to insert a swear word in amongst all that lovely jangliness (at 1:42, and again at 2:57). I’ve mentioned it in other posts on this blog, but I’m not a fan of swearing in songs. It’s a bugbear of mine. And a pet hate. Which would make it a pet bugbear.

4:03-4:30 – Given the way the song was played and recorded, this had a slight “early-U2” vibe about it. At this point in the song it goes into full-on U2 mode. Now I’m waiting for the next song.

12. “All Wound Up”

Back to some glam. I’m glad. (There’s only so much U2 I can tolerate.) Actually, the more I’m listening to this, the less I’m thinking “glam”. It’s more reminiscent of 70s rock. And I think it’s a fine way to end the album.

And I like the way the band finished the song. It was a nice surprise (that I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t heard it yet.)

***

OK. That’s what I thought of the album.

To the band: Thanks, guys, for letting me know about it.

And I think I might have another listen…


Song of the day: Missing Sibling – "Pick A Family"

January 30, 2013

The band requests continue.

This request comes to you courtesy of Missing Sibling, a “noise pop trio from Texas”. (That’s what they call themselves.)

The Missibs asked me to listen to their music way back in the middle of December last year.

I finally got around to listening to their EP, Pick A Family, and…

Alas, now that I’ve heard it a few times I must confess that the music of the Singlings reminded me a bit too much of Guided By Voices, a band I’m not especially enamoured of. The Issi-blings’ music has the same slightly low-key, slightly distant sound that Guided By Voices specialise in.

However, I don’t want to make this post one big moan about music I’m not terribly fond of.

Instead, I’ll mention one of the things I did enjoy.

I enjoyed the sound of the bass guitar in “Pick A Family” from 0:54-1:25, especially the last two notes (1:22-1:25). The sound is fat and fuzzy, and as a bass player I love a fat ‘n’ fuzzy bass sound. (It’s one reason why The StranglersJean-Jacques Burnel is one of my favourite bass players. Example here.)

By the way, and this is a minor moan, but I have a logic problem with “Pick A Family” in relation (ho ho) to the band name. If the sibling is missing, how can they pick a family?

But I should get back to talking about things I liked about the musique à la Missing Sibling.

I liked the fuzz bass at the start of “Passion In Your Paint“. Oops. I’ve already mentioned fuzz bass. Sorry.

Also in “Passion In Your Paint”, I liked the tom-tom work (e.g., 1:46-1:54 and 2:02-2:10). It was nice not to hear the hi-hat or ride cymbals for the entire length of the song. (I like variety.)

There were a few other enjoyable things, but they’re miniscule and not interesting enough to mention. (Do you really want to hear about drum sticks clicking together four times in the space of two seconds?)

I’ll just leave it at that, and present you with the music. You might like it more than I did.

As hinted at earlier (in the fourth paragraph), if you’re the kind of person who likes Guided By Voices then you’ll feel right at home with the music of Missing Sibling. Musically, they’re kissin’ cousins relatively similar:

Missing SiblingPick A Family (2012)

I must apologise for all the family references in this post. Believe it or not, they were entirely unintentional – but they just kept coming out. I guess the name Missing Siblings prompted my brain to go into Freudian overdrive.

(Going into self-analysis mode, I’d say it’s me subconsciously wishing there are no actual missing siblings anywhere.)

Hey chaps, for the sake of my mental health have you considered changing the name of the band to Found Siblings? Or how about Safe And Sound Siblings?

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Song of the day: Queued Up – "Wringin’ Wet"

January 29, 2013

I’m going to try and catch up with a few band requests that I’ve inexplicable, inexcusably, and intolerably neglected over the last month or two.

I’ll try to make these posts as short and to the point as possible, and not do my usual thing by waffling on, employing prolixity and verbosity for no apparent reason, and…

Sorry, I’m waffling again. (Short and to the point, Peter.)

I started the request-a-rama yesterday with Hot Nun, so they’re out of the way (i.e., I mentioned them). I’ll see who’s next.

Hang on…

OK. I’ve checked my emails, and there are five more bands to mention. Eek!

I’ll sort through them in reverse order – i.e., the oldest request first.

Today’s band is Queued Up, and they’re from Portland, Oregon. (As opposed to Portland, New Zealand, population 993.)

Queued Up asked me to listen to their music on December 12 last year. That’s almost two months ago. And it was last year. Last year.

Now that I’ve heard their self-titled EP, I can ask myself: “Why did you take so long to listen to it, Peter? It was only four songs.”

And now that I’ve heard the EP a number of times (that number being five), I can tell you four things I noticed:

1. I liked the songs.

2. The singer’s voice reminds me of A.C. Newman from The New Pornographers.

3. The music consists of energetic skinny-tie songs. To my ears, it’s new wave power pop circa 1980. Although I’m not a huge fan of skinny-tie power pop, I enjoyed the songs on the EP (see point 1) and wouldn’t mind hearing more. Actually, I reckon quite a few readers of this blog – the ones who are much more partial to skinny-tie power pop than I am – would love the music of Queued Up.

4. It’s a free download.

Oh, and speaking of things I noticed…

I don’t usually talk about the appearance of individual band members, but I want to point something I noticed about the chap on the far left of the EP cover:

To me, that chap’s face is a combination of Australian television personality James Mathison and American actor George Clooney:

James Mathison
+
George Clooney
=
guy from Queued Up

Right. One band down, four to go.

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Song of the day: Hot Nun – "Brave New World"

January 28, 2013

Noise merchant Jeff Shelton is an American chap who has been in a few bands, and the unifying factor of all the bands he’s been in is that they’re noisy.

(As far as I know, Jeff has never been in a James Taylor tribute band.)

Jeff’s latest – and possibly noisiest – venture is a band called Hot Nun.

Jeff and his fellow Hotties (or is that Nunnies?) have released a self-titled mini-album*, and after listening to it I thought “Hmm, that’s not too bad. I think it’s worth mentioning on the blog”.

So here I am mentioning Hot Nun on the blog.

I won’t verbally attack each song. I’ll just present you with the mini-album* and list a few positives and negatives.

For me, highlights include:

  • The first track. It’s my favourite.
  • The first drum fill in “Spirit Of 76“, from 0:22-0:24. That’s a great drum fill.
  • Also in “Spirit Of 76”, from 1:41-1:45 the sound of guitar strings being hit so hard that with each note you can hear the guitar pick hitting the pickup. That lets me know that someone was playing very enthusiastically.
  • The glam-boogie of “Who Do You Love“. That’s my second-favourite track.

Lowlights include:

  • The drum sound. (It sounds to me as if the drums are in a different room to the other instruments.)
  • The guitar solos generally doing nothing more than playing the vocal melodies. They’re nice tunes, but I prefer to hear a guitar soloing, not echoing.
  • The cover of David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”. Speaking as someone who is a fan of David Bowie, and someone whose favourite David Bowie album is Hunky Dory (the one with “Queen Bitch” on it), all I can say is “No, no, no, no, no, no, no”.

How about I stop typing and let you start listening?

Hot NunHot Nun (2013)

(*Quite a few people call Hot Nun an album, but I disagree. As far as I’m concerned, eight tracks makes a mini-album.)


Educating Peter # 32

January 27, 2013

The Cavalcade of Calamity List of 1980s Songs Peter’s Never Heard Of continues to grow with this latest suggestion by Michael in his efforts to edumacate me.

This time it’s Karla DeVito‘s 1981 song, “I Can’t Stand To Reminisce”.

(In response to the song titled, I was going to say “When it comes to 1980s songs, me too” – but that’s a very cheap joke.)

Instead of boring you with information about Ms. DeVito you probably already know, I’ll dive right in:

Karla DeVito – “I Can’t Stand To Reminisce” (1981)

Link

0:00-0:12 – Oh dear.

Straight away I’m thinking “This is definitely not the song for me”. Within three seconds I was thinking two incongruous things:

1. Elvis Costello; and
2. music for exercising

As far as I’m concerned, those two thoughts are mutually exclusive. They should never appear in a person’s brain at the same time, otherwise they could lead to visions of Elvis Costello exercising. [Shudder]

0:12-0:13 – “Twistin’, turnin’…”

Ewww. Yuck. Yuck. Yu-hu-hu-hu-uck.

0:13-0:15 – “Watch a-me burghghghghgh-nin’…”

This. Is. Horrible.

0:15-0:17 – “I’m fireproofin’ it”.

I’m fireproofin’ it? Fireproofin’??? That’s a verb?

(Note to self: Persevere, Peter. You only have two and a half minutes to go. You can do it. Just think: at least it’s not opera.)

0:18-0:22 – With Karla singing about sweating, I’m convinced this song was written expressly for the purpose of being used in gyms – the ones with lots of mirrors so the exercisers can see themselves becoming resplendent.

Now I’m thinking of Flashdance and the lady with the leotards and those leg warmers. (What was her name again? Was it Jennifer? Jessica? Ah, the Internet tells me it was Jennifer.)

0:23-0:26 – I’m having trouble understanding Ms. Devito’s diction here. It sounds like she’s singing “Well, do you ape for me like he do?”, but I’m fairly certain that’s not it. (Although considering this is a song that contains the line “I’m fireproofin’ it”, maybe it is.) It’s probably “ache for me”, but what about “like he do”? I may have to consult a lyric sheet.

It’s at this point in the proceedings that I’d like to mention something other than the lyrics and the singing:

I think the music is perfectly adequate for what it is (i.e., perky, early-’80s new wave/power pop). It played well enough, produced decently enough, and elicits absolutely no strong feelings from me at all.

OK. back to the song. [Ugh]

0:26-0:38 – I think this is the chorus. Karla’s vocals are now double-tracked, and she’s singing the name of the song, and following it with that pesky line, “Well, can you ache for me like he do”, or “we do”, or something. (Now I’m thinking of “The Stonecutters Song” from The Simpsons, when they all sing “we do, we do”.)

I like the harmony vocals at the end of the chorus, when multiple Karlas sing “I still remember it” (0:36-0:38).

0:38-0:43 – Oh no. This bit immediately after the chorus reminds me of “Oliver’s Army“. I’m now thinking of Elvis Costello at the gym.

0:44-0:47 – “Wheelin’, dealin’, tradin’ on feelin’…”. Okay.

0:50-0:52 – “Love virus eats at your mind…”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone to tell me about mind-eating viruses.

0:55-0:58 – And we’re back to “Do you ape for me like he do?”.

0:58-1:10 – The second chorus. It’s not all that different from the first one. This also has that cute Karla-singing-with-herself double-tracking at the end of it (1:08-1:09). I like it because it the sound of the harmony vocal reminds me of ABBA‘s Agnetha Fältskog (the blonde one) at her most strident.

Speaking of things in this song reminding me of other things…

The first four notes of the chorus melody (“I can’t stand to”) remind me of two other pieces of music.

Bear with me here, because this is going to be exceptionally trivial:

1. The four-note melody of “I can’t stand to” is the same as the first four notes of the solo violin part in the “Sanctus” movement of Fauré‘s Requiem*:

Gabriel FauréRequiem in D minor, Op. 48 (1893 version) – III. Sanctus (excerpt)
(La Chapelle Royale; Les Petites Chanteurs de Saint-Louis; Ensemble Musique Oblique, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe)

Link

2. When I’m hearing Karla’s four-note melody I have the urge to sing “Mammy’s little baby loves shortnin’ shortnin’…

But back to the song.

The law of averages regarding pop songs like “I Can’t Stand To Reminisce” tells me there’s going to be a middle eight next, followed by a guitar solo.

1:10-1:12 – Q: Is this a guitar solo?

A: Nope. It’s a little instrumental break.

Q: Are we not men?

A: We are Devo!

1:12-1:24 – It’s a middle eight. I wonder if there’s a guitar solo after it.

1:12-1:33 – Nope. It’s the back end of the chorus, starting from “Do you ape for me like he do?” (or whatever that is).

1:31 – A dramatic stop by the band, and then…

1:33-1:33 – Ah, it’s not a guitar solo. It’s a piano solo.

For me, this piano solo can be broken down into separate parts:

1:33-1:36 – some frisky tickling of the ivories;
1:36-1:38 – a bit of Elvis Costello;
1:38-1:41 – the pianist doing an impression of someone falling down stairs; and
1:41-1:43 – more Elvis Costello.

Wow. That was a 10-second solo.

1:43-1:46 – “Can you ape for me like he do”. What is she singing?

1:46-2:01 – It sure is an energetic chorus.

2:01-2:06 – More “Oliver’s Army”.

2:07-2:09 – And the band’s just added an extra guitar in the mix. With only 23 seconds to go until the song finishes, isn’t that a bit late to add an extra guitar?

2:07-2:09 – Here Karla’s repeating the title of the song in order to ram it into your head so that you won’t forget it in a hurry.

Minor Observation: In between Karl’s double-tracked recitations of “I can’t stand to reminisce”, Karla adds three “No!”s, one at 2:12, then at 2:15, and the last one at 2:18. The first one is enthusiastic, but the second one sounds half-hearted.

2:20-2:22 – Bizarreness Alert: The way Karla and the band end the song here is weird – with a capital “W”. Karla sings her line (“I can’t stand to reminisce”) the way she’s done so throughout the song, but the band plays haltingly. It sounds like they’re skidding to the end of the song. After listening to it a couple more times I realised they decided to add an extra note, maybe for dramatic effect. But for me, all it succeeded in doing was make the ending sound sloppy. To me, it just sounds wrong.

2:23-2:26 – As the guitars and bass fade out their last chord the drummer sneaks in some drum fills before…

2:26 – The real ending of the song. Bam!

Now the song’s finished.

***

OK. Summing up “I Can’t Stand To Reminisce”:

Er, it was alright.

***

*If you’re interested, here’s the full Requiem. I adore it.

Gabriel FauréRequiem in D minor, Op. 48 (1893 version)
(La Chapelle Royale; Les Petites Chanteurs de Saint-Louis; Ensemble Musique Oblique, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe)


Song of the day: Hungry Kids of Hungary – "Twin Cities"

January 27, 2013

I watched this new video on a TV music program yesterday, and enjoyed the song:

Hungry Kids Of Hungary – “Twin Cities” (2013)

I like the guitar riff in the middle eight (from 1:47-2:00).

When I went over to the band’s YouTube channel I had a listen to some of the band’s other songs.

I liked this one, too:

Hungry Kids Of Hungary – “Sharp Shooter” (2013)

Both those songs are from the band’s forthcoming album, You’re A Shadow.

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Musical coincidences # 360

January 26, 2013

Among the thousands hundreds dozens few emails I receive from musicians and/or record companies asking me to tell you about the music they’ve made and would like you to hear, one was from a record company called Radiant Future Records promoting the music of Martin Gordon.

The email I received had a message about Martin’s Pledge Music request (see video below), along with samples of songs from his forthcoming album, Include Me Out.

(Trivia: It was the first email I’ve received where the songs were actually in the message, not attached to it. I don’t know how they did it, I but I think it’s neat.)

Anyway, one of the songs I heard in the email reminded me of a track by Fountains of Wayne.

This…

Martin Gordon – “Gotta Go Green” (2013) (excerpt)

Link

…reminded me of this:

Fountains Of Wayne – “Someone To Love (2007) (excerpt)

Link

They may not be all that similar, but Martin’s thingy reminded me of Fountains Of Wayne’s thingy.

Here’s a bit more of “Gotta Go Green”. It’s not the whole thing, but it’s all that’s available at the moment:

Martin Gordon – “Gotta Go Green (2013)

And here’s the full version of “Someone To Love”:

Fountains Of Wayne – “Someone To Love (2000)

Link