The Weekend Review: May 2011 Report

Originally posted 2011-12-29 13:51:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

It has recently come to my attention that the “box” format I’ve used on all my Weekend Review posts thus far this year is somewhat incompatible with at least the iPhone Safari browser, possibly with other smart phone interfaces as well.  What was intended to provide organization and aesthetic pleasure actually ended up cutting off my words from clear view on many devices.  So, my thanks to those who pointed that out, and rest assured I’m already brainstorming a format for next year.

As it is, my Weekend Reviews have fallen by the wayside in a year that has seen a significant format change — a blending, as it were, of my full-length reviews (which were, admittedly, perhaps too long) and my “Yes, No, Maybe So” one-sentence reviews (which started out simpler, but ended up having much of the complexity of my five star scale in the full-length reviews; I also pushed the definition of “one-sentence” to the extreme).

I’m excited for the new year to come for me to rededicate myself to the new music reviews in a more manageable manner and on a more regular schedule, yet I couldn’t let the latter two-thirds of the year’s new music slip by without comment.  So, without further ado, here’s my reviews (and many they are!) for May 2011, and I’ll be back soon to squeeze in the remaining months before the end of 2011.  As you can tell, brevity is a virtue as I rush to meet the 1/1/2012 deadline, and I am all the more excited for my end-of-the-year lists, which will be unveiled throughout the first weeks of January 2012.

 

The Schnozzle Sessions (Mike Fusco)

Producer: Mike Fusco

Released: (limited edition)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “I Adore You” & “Do You Have a Sister”

Simply put, The Schnozzle Sessions oozes potential and makes a listener anxious for the blend of catchy tunes, clever and poetic lyricism, and passionate vocalizing that will surely be highlighted on Fusco’s next full studio album, a promise already made good on the “Modern-Day Pocahontas” single released this summer.

 

Helplessness Blues (Fleet Foxes)

Producer: Phil Ek and Fleet Foxes

Released: May 3, 2011

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Helplessness Blues” & “Blue Spotted Tail”

I don’t think the Fleet Foxes are bad, I just don’t understand what all the fuss is about.  I don’t understand the Beach Boys comparisons they’ve been drawing since their breakthrough to the mainstream, a likeness clearly supportable in their lush, gorgeous multi-layered vocals, yet undeserved on the level of the song as a whole.  Fleet Foxes, like many recent bands, seem content to develop sections and lines – what Brian Wilson might have referred to as “feels” in the mid-sixties – and yet to develop no further.  There seems to be little of the creativity in composition that Wilson demonstrated early.  Of course, it was this quest for artistic development and perhaps even perfection that likely drove Wilson off the deep end, so Fleet Foxes are probably smart to keep to their formula, breaking out here and there in standouts like the poetic urgency of the title track and the understated, emotive beauty of songs like “Blue Spotted Tail.”  One might take “The Shrine / An Argument” as sign of greater aspirations, so there is indeed reason to pay hopeful attention for future developments…

I Am Very Far (Okkervil River)

Producer: Will Sheff

Released: May 10, 2011

Rating: 2/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “The Rise” & “Piratess”

There is something about the overall composition of I Am Very Far that smacks of two sticks struck together only a bit too slowly or at a slightly incorrect angle to achieve a spark.  Okkervil River is unsurprisingly strong in their lyricism here, very ambitious and coherent in their instrumentation, and yet something falls flat.  There is passion, but it fails to translate.  In too many places, the album falls into a march and trudges forward, having failed to achieve authentic momentum.  Still, the haunting aura of the album closer “The Rise” hangs over the whole as it fades, leaving an echo of what is possible.

 

Move Like This (The Cars)

Producer: Jacknife Lee & the Cars

Released: May 10, 2011

Rating: 4/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Too Late” & “Sad Song”

Having picked up this album as a passing fancy, feeling badly for how few units seemed to have moved before I found it on the CD store racks, the consistent quality of Move Like This was a pleasant surprise, a shock even.  In an odd way, the synthetic soundscape that the Cars not only rode but also helped to define over two decades ago has resurfaced and provided for this album to be released years after the band’s prime yet still sound remarkably fresh and modern.  The production quality is clear and crisp, the band keeps a fast pace, and Ric Ocasek (returning for the first time since 1988) sounds as vital as ever.

 

Give Till It’s Gone (Ben Harper)

Released: May 10, 2011

Rating: 2/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Don’t Give Up on Me Now” & “I Will Not Be Broken”

If anyone has been guilty of dragging out too little for too long, it is Ben Harper on this album.  Following his significant contribution to last year’s masterful Fistful of Mercy debut, Harper opens with “Don’t Give Up on Me Now,” easily the top track of the release.  However, much of the music that follows is emotive yet more than one track suffers from not knowing when to quit (“Get There From Here,” “Dirty Little Lover”), others from a whiff of autopilot (“Rock N’ Roll is Free,” “Pray That Our Love Sees the Dawn”), most from a feeling of drifting between the patterns of blues and its close relatives and an urge to be more.

 

Rome: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi)

Producer: Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi

Released: May 16, 2011

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Season’s Trees” & “Two Against One”

As a soundtrack, this album is held to a slightly different standard, one which is frankly difficult for me to calibrate, particularly without having seen the film for which it was designed.  As I had hoped for and expected, Danger Mouse’s presence is clearly felt and the songs with vocals are true gems, particularly “Season’s Trees” and “Two Against One.”  The choice of collaborators is ideal, Norah Jones taking lead on the former and ex-White Strip Jack White on the latter – both provide their unique vocal sound and distinct presence to their respective tracks, which serve to elevate Rome above background music — wonderfully quirky though that background music may otherwise be.

 

The Graduation Ceremony (Joseph Arthur)

Producer: John Alagia & Joseph Arthur

Released: May 23, 2011

Rating: 4/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Face in the Crowd” & “This is Still My World”

Particularly in this solo release, it becomes clear just how much Joseph Arthur’s presence was felt on last year’s excellent Fistful of Mercy debut release.  Unlike his bandmate Ben Harper, who seems to delight in a mixture of electric distortion and melancholia, Arthur captures an even deeper sense of loss on this album with a much more finely wrought sense of layering that results in an apparent mastery of mood.  There is a warm, personal atmosphere about this record, one not often achieved outside a live venue, and one that benefits from a multi-layered manipulation of the studio.  The ultimate result, on superbly rendered tracks like “Horses,” is of some pleasing middle ground being achieved between the simple and the overproduced.  Adding a quasi-rock romp like “Midwest” three quarters of the way in is just one of the many winks Arthur makes, hinting at his potential while remaining in the bounds of his project, his sound.

 

Demolished Thoughts (Thurston Moore)

Producer: Beck

Released: May 24, 2011

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Benediction” & “Illuminine”

Beck’s presence in the producer’s slot should come as no surprise given the feel and sound of Demolished Thoughts, though leading off with what are arguably the two strongest tracks somehow seems a frantic, freshman move.  Still, on these two tracks alone, and certainly throughout the record, Moore makes good on the laurels he has earned as guitarist for Sonic Youth, among other side projects.  His use of orchestration to accompany him throughout creates a beautifully murky mood and often works as an intricate counterpoint to his acoustic guitar.  Still, the brilliance of “Benediction” and Illuminine” are rarely achieved again, perhaps only fully in “Mina Loy” and “January” at the close of the album.

 

Codes and Keys (Death Cab for Cutie)

Producer: Chris Walla

Released: May 31, 2011

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “You Are A Tourist” & “Stay Young, Go Dancing”

While it is pretty much par for the course for me to hate on Death Cab for Cutie, most often via less than cleverly concealed observations of their mediocrity with relation to the praise they invariably receive, and while I initially lumped Codes and Keys in with the bulk of their catalog, I would be remiss if I did not admit that this latest album has softened my typical stance.  There is a certain mastery of atmosphere, a blend of guitars, still prominent in the mixes, with the other, more typical keyboard-based instrumentation of experimentation.  Perhaps their strongest product since Transatlanticism, Codes and Keys consistently maintains a clarity of purpose that is admirable, each track contributing to a sort of unity of effect.  You won’t find me helping to hoist it onto the “Best Album” bandwagon, but I won’t be kicking it off into the ditch either.

 

Ukulele Songs (Eddie Vedder)

Producer: Adam Kasper & Eddie Vedder

Released: May 31, 2011

Rating: 3/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:

Allow me to begin by expounding on my respect for Eddie Vedder both as a performer and as a presence.  If anyone can pull off an album of solo ukulele songs, it is Eddie Vedder.  Of course, had anyone predicted twenty years ago that he would actually put out such a record, most would have laughed.  Or spat.  However, here we are two decades post-Ten and scanning through a 16-track, one-man-ukulele-band album heavily weighted with Vedder-penned tracks, and hardly a Pearl Jam cover among them.  While there was a sort of artistry to the Into the Wild soundtrack, Vedder’s first solo release, that is lacking here, there is also a sense of ownership lacking from that effort that oozes forth here.  It’s hardly the first disc that comes to mind when I get in the car, Ukulele Songs is a stark yet striking effort that fits in just right in the fading twilight of a weekend evening.

“Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam – Chords, Tabs, & How to Play

Originally posted 2009-09-28 22:16:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“Just Breathe”
Pearl Jam

C                                                                G
Yes I understand that every life must end, aw huh…
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, aw huh…
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love…
Some folks just have one, others they got none, aw huh…

Am
Stay with me…
F
Let’s just breathe.

Practiced are my sins, never gonna let me win, aw huh…
Under everything, just another human being, aw huh…
Yeh, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me bleed.

Stay with me…
You’re all I see.

G                     Dm
Did I say that I need you?
G                     Dm
Did I say that I want you?
F                           Am
Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see…
F                                             G
No one knows this more than me.
G
As I come clean.

I wonder everyday as I look upon your face, aw huh…
Everything you gave and nothing you would take, aw huh…

Nothing you would take…
Everything you gave.

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see…
No one knows this more than me.
As I come clean.

(Fingerpicking over verse chords)

Am
Nothing you would take…
F
Everything you gave.
Hold me till I die…
Meet you on the other side.

** These chords and lyrics are interpretations and transcriptions, respectively, and are the sole property of the copyright holder(s). They are posted on this website free of charge for no profit for the purpose of study and commentary, as allowed for under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, and should only be used for such personal and/or academic work. **

“Black” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2008-05-23 21:15:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Good evening! Welcome to your Friday installment of The Laptop Sessions. I hope you are ready to celebrate a three-day weekend, and plan on seeing family, friends, and perhaps enjoy a nice cookout or two in the process.

Meanwhile, I get to bring to you one of my favorite songs. It’s Pearl Jam tonight with a song from their first album Ten. Track #5 is Black from that album and that is the song I bring to you tonight.

It has a great background electric guitar and Eddie Vedder sings a wonderful vocal melody in the entire song. Vedder is known to go in between styles back and forth and this song showcases that talent of his. From the soft verses to the emotional outro of the song, I attempt to emulate what Eddie can do. I think I do a good job, but then again i’m no Eddie Vedder. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Also, this song translates wonderfully to acoustic guitar, and I substitute a minor change in the guitar part at the end of the song instead of the vocal “do do doo doo do do dooo” that the recording has. And as with all songs that fade out, I picked the chord that sounded best to end on and went with that.

I want to thank all of you for visiting, commenting, rating, and subscribing. This is among the sessions I am most proud of.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Jim’s latest session, then come Sunday we bring another special week of songs to you. You’ll have to check out Chris’s session on Sunday to find out just what that is!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

“Off He Goes” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2009-05-12 06:44:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another week and another all-new Monday edition of the Laptop Sessions.  It’s been quite a weekend, and it’s going to be quite a week!

On Friday night, I stayed late at school for as long as I could, but I just couldn’t resist going to see the newly released Star Trek movie.  For once, a movie lived up to the hype!  I picked up Nicole for the trip to the theater, and although we’ve seen a lot of good movies together (not to mention a decent number of flops), this has to top them all.  Although I’m more of a Trek geek than she is, I think it’s fair to say we were equally excited during and after the movie.  If you love the classic series and films, then you’ll appreciate the respect paid to these characters.  If you know nothing about the franchise, then this is the perfect film to watch first.  I can’t wait to find an excuse to watch it again very soon…

Saturday was a crazy day for me, as my sister Jaime graduated from Nyack college at 2 pm in New York.  I got up early (for a Saturday, at least!) and drove to New York for my least favorite of all activities: ceremonies like a graduation.  That being said, it was worth it to see my sister graduate.  We met as a family later on for dinner and that was great, too.  It was great to have Nicole join us, too, and she made what could have been a long, boring drive with lots of downtime an enjoyable little day trip.  Sunday was more of the same, as it was Mother’s Day, and my sister is only home for a week before returning to New York to work.  We got to hang out, talk music, and watch an episode of The Twilight Zone that gave her nightmares as a young child.  We didn’t get to play The Office board game, but there will always be time for another round in the future.  (And I’ll be ready this time! 😉 )

Tonight finds me watching the Mets.  After a seven game winning streak, it appears that they’re going to lose one.  I’m loving this iPhone “MLB.com – At Bat 2009” application.  It makes listening to games and staying in touch with the stats and standings soooo easy.  It’s been a great week for watching Mets baseball, and I don’t want to complain.  But I don’t quite get why they seem unable to score runs when Johan Santana is pitching.  Maybe they get subconsciously complacent, since he’s such a great pitcher.  Even tonight, although he got into a couple sticky situations, he worked his way out of each one — until they pulled him out 1/3 into the seventh inning.  What truly amazes me is his ERA; as of tonight, it is .78!  Games with Santana on the mound would have to get busted open wider than Abyss during a Pay-Per-View for weeks straight for him to reach the ERA’s of the other Mets starters…

But, enough of blogging for blogging’s sake — I should probably introduce the song I’ve recorded for tonight’s acoustic cover song music video.  “Off He Goes” is a track from Pearl Jam’s 1996 album No Code.  This album was the first to break from their previous sound a bit and some fans disapproved.  I’ll admit that it’s not my favorite album in the Pearl Jam catalog by any stretch, but there are some great tracks on it.  “Hail, Hail” is one of the most rocking and catchy songs in their catalog.  “Present Tense” is one of my favorite Pearl Jam tracks, if only for the combination of lyrics and gradual instrumental buildup.  “I’m Open” is a cool spoken-word track — yes, those do exist!

This track, “Off He Goes,” is perfect material for an acoustic cover song.  Initially, after having this song come up on my iPod this weekend, I thought it would be an easy song to record.  Ironically, I almost decided not to learn it and record it for fear of being criticized for recording too many simple songs.

Well, that’s simply not the case…

As Jim can attest to, I spent over an hour and fifteen minutes and about 40-50 takes of this song to get it anywhere near where I wanted it to be.  There are still a couple of discrepancies I hit while singing the tune, but I also nailed a few of my favorite subtleties in the song.  What recording this song taught me was how truly difficult it is to make a slow, deceptively simple song like this really translate into a great performance.  I have even more respect for Eddie Vedder than I did before, especially for the fact that he plays guitar and sings in concert on this one.  The chords are so easy — really, just F, C, and Am — but the strumming pattern was difficult to hit in a few places.  (**The best part about recording these sessions, undoubtedly, is spending all that time, posting on YouTube, and waking up to find that two people have viewed it, one of whom has one-starred it and left no comment.  Thanks for that.**)

That’s enough for one Monday.  I hope you enjoy the session (more than my first YouTube viewer did) and hurry back all week for great new acoustic cover song music videos.

See you next session!