“These Apples” (Barenaked Ladies Cover)

Originally posted 2008-05-18 23:12:18. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome to another edition of The Laptop Sessions with me, Jim Fusco!

Of course, The Laptop Sessions started partially because I loved Ed Robertson’s “Bathroom Sessions” so much. He’s so great on the guitar, it makes me feel very inferior.

But, I still love his music and I love to play it! This song, “These Apples”, is infectious and I was so happy I finally got a chance to play it.

Next week, we’ll be doing “Title Track Week”, but this week is anything-goes! Make sure to come back tomorrow for another great Session from Chris and check out the Blog at http://laptopsessions.com for Jeff’s most recent video, as well!



“Break Your Heart” (Barenaked Ladies Cover)

Originally posted 2008-09-22 23:58:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to what is a momentous occasion for me…  my 100th Laptop Session!  That’s — count ’em — one hundred acoustic rock cover songs, recorded after almost nine months of posting every third day.  Thus far, Jim is the only one of us to reach the 100 mark and Jeff can’t be too far behind me, so this is definitely an exciting time for us here at the music blog.

I wanted to make today’s session a great one, so I decided to go barenaked.  Barenaked Ladies, that is!  As I explained in my previous post, I love the Steven Page-sung track from Born on a Pirate Ship called “Break Your Heart.”  It’s quite the emotional tune and is certainly characterized (and highlighted!) by a classic Steven Page lead vocal.  I almost felt silly even attempting this song, considering that it is not exactly in my range, but I wanted to set the bar high for my next hundred videos.  By this time next year, I would love to have 100 more songs recorded, and have many of them be more ambitious, more perfected, and overall more exciting than even the first hundred.

I mean, don’t get me wrong; it’s been a crazy ride thus far.  But still, I’m excited to improve and increase the popularity of the blog.  It would be nice to know that people were actually reading these blog posts; it would certainly make me want to write longer, more interesting and informative entries.

Before I leave you to the video, I need to share one last tidbit from my day.  I hadn’t downloaded all the free music at Fusco-Moore.com/Store, so I took a little trip on over and “purchased” all that free material.  If you’re a Laptop Sessions fan in the least, then this is a must-have — we have eight volumes worth of acoustic rock covers, not to mention live shows.

Well, that’s it for me tonight — Aside from the fact that I’m nodding off as we speak and wondering when Jim will notice that I’ve completely slumped over on my laptop, I’m going to let my video speak for itself.  Stay tuned for another cover from Jeff tomorrow and another from Jim the following day.  And, guess what?  I’ll be back on the third day for yet another acoustic cover song on the best cover music blog in the universe!

See you next session!

The Top Five Rock Artists of the Decade (2000s): NUMBER TWO is Barenaked Ladies

Originally posted 2010-04-19 14:30:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is the fourth in a five part series dedicated to the top five rock artists of the decade, 2000-2009.  The criteria used to determine this list were: (1) Quality of Music, (2) Quantity of Released Material, (3) Diversity of Media, and (4) Roles of Artists/Band Members.  Look for new posts coming soon!

By Chris Moore:

As we close in on my top pick for best rock artist of the decade, the decisions are getting more and more difficult.  In an attempt to be as unbiased as possible, I initially had last post’s honoree — Jack White — in the #2 spot.  Then I started listening to All in Good Time, which led me back to their albums of last decade.  After one listen to Maroon and Everything to Everyone, I knew that the Barenaked Ladies belonged in a higher position.  It should also be noted that while I do believe I made the right choice for the #1 slot, I have been a BnL fan for much longer, and they hold quite an important place in my heart where music is concerned.

That being said, let’s get this party started!

The Barenaked Ladies have distinguished themselves in all four of the categories I’ve established (see above) for this list.  They are a constantly evolving group of songwriter/musicians and performers, not content to rest easy at what worked for them in the past.  Throughout this, the second full decade of their existence, they have been prolific, releasing new material in every year except 2009.  In addition to typical studio albums every three years, this decade has seen the release of a greatest hits collection, a DVD compilation of their music videos, a holiday-themed album, a musical production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It (the one release in their catalog I have yet to set eyes on), their first live DVD, and a children’s album with accompanying book.

Although the decade ended with the oft-noted and overly publicized departure of founding member Steven Page, the remaining four members closed out 2009 by recording a series of eighteen songs, fourteen of which would find their way to 2010’s All in Good Time.

In every way that matters, the Barenaked Ladies have been a creative force to reckon with — and pay attention to — throughout this decade, and despite the criticism of naysayers, they have a very promising future in the next.

POST-STUNT EXPECTATIONS

To say that there was a lot riding on Maroon would be an understatement.

After the breakthrough success of 1998’s Stunt (via the chart-topping “One Week”), BnL’s image and career stood to be reconsidered based on what came next.  While Maroon was successful enough to preclude accusations of one-hit-wonder status, their American audience in particular seemed less and less interested in their work as the years went on.  This much is apparent in the charts, each album topping out further down than the previous one.  (As of this writing, this continues to hold true for All in Good Time, which has peaked at 23; in Canada, on the other hand, it has rightfully marked a comeback, hitting #3 which is the highest chart position for a BnL album there since Maroon.)

But numbers are numbers.  There are so many important aspects of modern life which, contrary to the beliefs and attempts of the powers that be, simply cannot be quantified.

Music is certainly one of those.

Maroon is BnL’s most fully-realized, cohesive, balanced album; it is serious, yet entertaining — fast and slow, loud and quiet.  The first half is populated by equally single-worthy rockers like “Falling for the First Time,” “Too Little Too Late,” and “Pinch Me,” the latter admittedly seeming like a wanna-be follow-up to “One Week.”  The second half of the album stretches out a bit, unwinding hauntingly gorgeous ballads like “Off the Hook” and “Helicopters.”  I haven’t even mentioned some of my favorites — “Baby Seat,” “Go Home,” and “The Humour of the Situation.”  This is a true five star album.

Although the album and singles performed well, it was apparent that they were all received with a bit less interest than Stunt‘s material had been (or, more accurately, its lead-off single).  I, for one, think that it is no coincidence that this was just about the same time that I began to lose interest in popular radio and music television.

BRILLIANCE IN RELATIVE OBSCURITY

To avoid going into painstaking detail about every track that the Barenaked Ladies have released since 2000, I will begin by saying that there is a vast sea of reasons to be interested in and entertained by this band.  As much as I felt people should have been more receptive to Maroon, I was flabbergasted at the apathy that 2003’s Everything to Everyone.  How an album that could so masterfully run the gamut between silly and serious, all the while being consistently brilliant — both lyrically and instrumentally — is beyond me.  This album is composed of some truly killer tracks: sardonic songs like “Celebrity” and “Second Best,” upbeat rockers like “Testing 1, 2, 3” and “Unfinished,” a love song like “Maybe Katie,” the oddly foreboding “War on Drugs,” and the stereotypical BnL knee-slappers “Another Postcard” and “Shopping.”

A lack of public praise never slowed them down, as 2006 saw the recording of 29 new tracks.  Where the band went wrong, in this writer’s opinion, was in deciding to release one album that year and a second album the following year.  What ended up happening was the most outstanding tracks were split between the two discs and, with a lack of cohesion between the two discs, the Are Me/Are Men project was simply not as good as it could have been.  Even Wikipedians are uncertain how to classify these selections in their catalog — either as the seventh or the seventh and eighth albums of BnL’s career.  Still, these releases saw the unveiling of a new era for the band — one of independence from major labels and of stretching their musical sensibilities.  Kevin Hearn’s contributions demonstrated the potential that he presented not only as an instrumentalist and singer, but also as a songwriter.  Jim Creeggan’s beautiful vocals also showed significant promise, even if they were only showed off on a silly number.

These three (or four?) albums would be reason alone to consider BnL one of the best bands of the decade.  And yet they didn’t stop there.  In the past ten years, the band has released some amazing work, not the least of which are their holiday album and children’s album.  The holiday album, Barenaked for the Holidays, brilliantly blended Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter-themed songs in one very characteristic collection (think: “Elf’s Lament,” “Green Christmas,” and others).  The latter, Snacktime!, swung far enough to the silly side of the spectrum to be largely ignored by “serious” music critics.  That being said, anyone who takes a moment to listen to the harmonies and instrumentation will realize that Snacktime! is a masterpiece unto itself, two of the best tracks — “Pollywog in a Bog” and “Louis Loon” — being penned by the unusual collaboration of Creeggan & Ed Robertson.  And it saw the lead vocal debut of Tyler Stewart on the rocking “Allergies,” a song that almost makes me feel cool for having season allergies myself.

AN ARREST, A CRASH, A BREAK, A VOW

Far too much has been written about the moments of crisis and tragedy in the personal lives of the Barenaked Ladies these past few years, so I’ll be especially brief here.  If you’ve kept up with music news, you know that Steven Page was arrested on charges of drug possession, Ed Robertson crashed his plane (fortunately with no serious injuries sustained), and Page’s departure was announced in 2009.  All in all, not a wonderful end to the decade.

That being said, the four remaining members — Robertson, Hearn, Creeggan, and Stewart — have vowed to continue recording and performing as BnL.  How well is that going?

One listen to All in Good Time is all you’ll need to answer that one on your own.

Steven Page’s “Page One” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-11-14 12:02:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

Coming on the heels of the excellent post-Page BnL disc All in Good Time, “expectations” would be the key word when considering the aptly-titled Page One.  Steven Page has already released two solo albums, but the Vanity Project was a side project (with much less risk involved) and A Singer Must Die with the Art of Time Ensemble was… well, covers played with an ensemble.  They were both excellent: the former in and of itself and the latter for what it was.

In all practicality, Page One is the first true Steven Page solo album.

As such, it is an exercise in expressing his talents across a variety of genres.  Some are tracks that could have fit seamlessly on previous Barenaked Ladies records.  Others would simply never have fit in that venue.

This aforementioned variety is perhaps the most appealing feature of his debut.  After all, the power pop appeal of such tracks as “Indecision” can only extend so far before one begins to go numb (taking notes, Brendan Benson?).  And, with the exception of several moments of overproduced indulgence on tracks like “Entourage” and “Queen of America,” the dynamics of these twelve diverse tracks are admirably balanced to attain cohesion as an album.

And there are several moments of absolute perfection in style, sound, and tone.  Take the opening lines of the first song, “A New Shore:”  “As captain of this band of merry sailors I’m a black mark I’m a failure/So before you watch me drown/I’m relinquishing command for something I don’t understand/this man’s about to turn his whole life upside down.”  Under any other circumstances, this nautical analogy might seem forced or cliched.  However, as it marks his departure from the extraordinarily successful band that has served as the anchor (see, I can do it too!) of his entire musical career up to this point, it seems quite appropriate.

While I follow the juxtaposition of the “merry sailors,” arguably the other four members of BnL, and the color “black,” perhaps to indicate the more serious, introverted nature of Page’s material — think: “Bad Day” on the otherwise joyous and goofy Snacktime! — the term “failure” would seem an over-exaggeration.

Still, there are many fans of the nineties rock group who consider Page’s departure a betrayal.  Some go so far as to condemn Page’s conduct in the year leading up to his exit as immoral and unforgivable.

Had this cocaine bust occurred several decades earlier or in a different band, he would have been elevated a level into rock superstar iconography, the stuff of legends.

Occurring when it did, and being who he is, Page has been vilified by the contingent of so-called family-friendly fans.

And yet, disappointed as I was to learn of the breakup, I did appreciate Page’s attitude.  As he told one interviewer, “I keep saying to fans, ‘Just think: you get a two-for-one now. You get their records and my records.'”

Page One (Steven Page, 2010)

Page One (Steven Page, 2010)

This record tells a story of internal conflict, expressed in a direct and personal manner that would arguably have lost some resonance as the product of five member band.  “Indecision” is the second track, the first single, and a signpost of sorts.  If Page One is an exploration of the recent dramatic events of his life, then “Indecision” introduces the first of the destructive forces at work: namely, indecisiveness.

As Page sings, “I’m predisposed to have it/Happiest when I don’t know what to do/I want to settle down like my father/I want to run away like my mother ought to.”

This track may be read as a response of sorts to the Barenaked Ladies’ own 2010 single “You Run Away.”  In that song, fell0w BnL co-founder Ed Robertson sings, “I’ll give you something you can cry about/One thing you should try it out/Hold a mirror shoulder high/When you’re older look you in the eye.”  Page is clearly doing this, rooting his insecurities in analogies of the family (mother/father), and admitting that he thrives on a degree of ambiguity and perhaps even crisis.

The song that follows, “Clifton Springs,” is ostensibly a character narrative, and yet Page’s delivery of certain lines resonates as though the story speaks to a deeper, more personal connection.  He sings, “My stigmata’s the regret for how/I could have let it all/Go so wrong.”  The question here is, of course, does Page intend simply to create a story or is this an outlet for expressing his own sentiments?  Other lines like “You’ve got to do what’s best for yourself” and references to “the ghosts of a life” coalesce with the thematic tones that recur across the other eleven tracks and seem to point to the latter.

(Still, devotee of the school of Dylan that I am, I acknowledge that speculation out of proportion can only serve to obscure music, not clarify it.)

The subsequent three tracks provide an array of perspectives on fidelity in general and marriage in particular.  In “Entourage,” the singer seeks immediate pleasure in the form of sex, elevating the quest by the end of the song to state, “Now we’re through with morality,/can I sleep with your wife?/I want to be like you/And your entourage/Tonight.”

“Marry Me” follows with a proposal of marriage, albeit a decidedly perfunctory one, as it comes with the rationale “I know it’s the same all over the world.”  The layers are further peeled back to reveal the heart of this figure’s matrimonial leanings: “Marry me…/Without our love, we’d just be normal people marching forward/Normal people? Who? You and Me? It can’t be!”  In each case — the looser groupie and the norm-conscious fiance-to-be — the ultimate motivation is satisfaction, whether it be physical or psychological.

The third installment in this anti-matrimonial trilogy is “All the Young Monogamists,” in which the singer and his partner observe the young couples they see, smiling to themselves as they “know what’s in store.”  As Page sings, “As they gaze into the eyes/Of the one they love/They can feel inside of them/That this is not enough.”  After expressing this existential emptiness and offering up four unpromising outcomes — tiring out, running away, sleeping around, or settling — the narrator ultimately finds himself coming full circle as he embarks on a monogamous relationship, promising “I will always be true to you.”

So, there is some optimism to cling to, after all.

This is followed by the one-two power-pop punch of “She’s Trying to Save Me” and “Over Joy,” songs which explore that second destructive force: depression.  This is a familiar force, one which has crept into the undertones — and, sometimes, overtones — of Page’s previous work.  And these are excellent, if not groundbreaking, efforts.  The former has “second single” written all over it, and the latter comes off as the Vanity Project’s answer to Wilco’s “Please Be Patient With Me.”

I would have pegged a track nine with a title like “If You Love Me” to be the mid-album slow song, but no dice.  The rock rolls on.  The phrasing here is of interest, placing the onus of relationship maintenance on the other party.  “IF you love me,” Page sings, “Everything will be all right tonight.”

“Leave Her Alone” follows, and is arguably the most dynamic track on the album.  If “All the Young Monogamists” could have been a candidate for A Singer Must Die, then “Leave Her Alone” is a brilliant blend between rock, pop, big band, and orchestral music.  This song boasts some of the strongest and bluntest lyrics, ranging from eloquent introspection (“Rephrasing the hazing amazed at/how cruel men could be,/I saw they were no different from me”) to baser internal rhymes (“And subsequent cities were shitty as well”).

Then comes “Queen of America,” the one song I’ve been unable to place on the Page One spectrum.  Truth be told, it sounds like an outtake from a Scissor Sisters album in topic, tone, and closing voice-over.

Page One wraps up fittingly with “The Chorus Girl,” the first of his songs to take a deep breath.  I’ll leave this one for you to discover on your own, but suffice it to say that every other song is a step leading up to this track.

Oh, and there is a winking reference to cocaine to rival Ed Robertson’s All in Good Time line, “You crash the party, I’ll crash the plane.”

In most respects, Page One lives up to expectations.  There is no denying that it is bittersweet to hold the BnL and Steven Page releases side by side and to realize that they each contain aspects that the other does not, and perhaps cannot.  This being said, I see no value in lamenting the breakup.  Instead, it would be best that fans follow Page’s logic and embrace this two-for-one deal.  If we respect and perhaps even trust these five men, this split must have been a positive and necessary development, and it has at the very least yielded some of the most urgent, passionate music of their recent career.

If only for now, that should be enough.