The Weekend Review: January 2013 Report

Originally posted 2013-03-30 06:47:28. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Heartthrob (Tegan and Sara)

Producer: Greg Kurstin, Mike Elizondo, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, & Rob Cavallo

Released: January 29, 2013

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Drove Me Wild” & “Closer”


When I read in advance that Tegan and Sara had “gone pop” for their latest album, my first response was one of profound hesitation.  After all, I’ve found the band’s previous efforts to lack a certain dynamic energy that I’ve always felt was possible, and it has in large part been their identity as co-songwriters and musicians that has kept me coming back for more.  On Heartthrob, the former remains but the latter has been somewhat displaced by the practicalities of pop music (i.e., programming and the like).  However, much to my surprise, this new approach to their sound has reinvigorated their music and unforeseen strengths in their style have arisen.  In short, pop suits them.  From the infectiously catchy opener and lead single “Closer” (with a wonderfully conspicuous wink on the chorus line embellishment, made literal in the music video) to the retro-flavored gem “Drove Me Wild,” the songs maintain a uniform sound, but always with a hook or other appeal.  On previous efforts, as I’ve written, I’ve found Tegan and Sara’s music to suffer at times from the “half and done” songwriting under which there are no new movements or lyrics after the halfway point.  Here, where that does happen, it blends in and works, and my best guess as to why I feel this way is that pop music operates under different rules than rock.  If you’re interested in a flashback to the eighties blended with a clear dose of the contemporary, a band with rock sensibilities turned pop, Tegan and Sara’s Heartthrob is probably the next album for you.  I know that, for me, it has been difficult to break the circuit with this, their latest eminently listenable and fun record, on numerous occasions.

“You Wouldn’t Like Me” (Tegan & Sara Cover)

Originally posted 2008-10-28 22:33:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to your Tuesday edition of the Laptop Sessions.  After my quite lengthy post last time, I’m going to keep this one fairly brief — not because I want to be lazy and write less, but because I still have a lot of work to finish before tomorrow morning.

Tonight, I’m pleased to present my second video in a three-part series where I present a song from not only a new band to the Laptop Sessions, but also originally done by a female lead singer.  Now, if you’ve come to the music blog before, then you know that my vocal range does not exactly lend itself to great heights…  But, even though I had to drop an octave for this song tonight, I’ve been true to the Laptop Sessions promise to always record in the original key!  Indeed, that’s one of the reasons that Jim started the Laptop Sessions — to create an alternative to carelessly and ineffectively recorded cover songs on YouTube.

While I don’t expect anyone to be wowed by my Johnny Cash-like adaptation tonight (I’m exaggerating with this description, of course!), it was interesting to record for a couple reasons.  The biggest one is the rhythm of the first verse.  It was difficult at first to keep the rhythm of the guitar, while at the same time being true to the tune and timing of the verse.  As with any acoustic cover I’ve recorded, though, I took the time to practice this opening over and over, beginning a few months ago and then coming back to it tonight.  In the end, it’s exciting to see the playback and know that, if only in baby steps, my abilities and stylistic experimentations are expanding because of this session-a-day project.

I first saw Tegan and Sara when they warmed up for Ben Folds in concert.  There was something about the duo that I liked, and even though they are twins, I’ve always liked the quiet, calming presence of Sara.  Which is odd, since I’m usually most interested in the lead singer or songwriter of a band.  Anyway, I bought their 2004 album So Jealous, and although I found a lot of the songs to be repetitive within themselves (i.e. a lack of new lyrical material past the halfway point of any given song), I also found the album really catchy.  I liked the upbeat sound and their vocal harmonies are really great.  They’re not exactly the Beach Boys by any stretch of the imagination, but they’ve found their own niche.  One of my favorite memories of this album is when I first bought it and played it for my sister, who liked it very much.  I just remember sitting in the basement rocking out to it with her.  We don’t exactly have the same tastes in music, so it’s exciting when we find some legitimate crossover!

Anyway, this song — “You Wouldn’t Like Me” — is the first track from the album.  When I did my usual Wikipedia/google run tonight, I didn’t learn all that much new about the band.  However, one thing I didn’t know was that the White Stripes recorded another track, “Walking With A Ghost,” from this 2004 album.

Okay, without further ado, here’s my version of their song.  Keep coming back to the best acoustic cover song music blog on the web, as you don’t want to miss Jeff’s original song tomorrow or Jim’s “Thumpin’ Thursday,” as Jeff would say.  And, of course, I’ll be back on Friday — this time, with a song that I can guarantee you know (but probably not the version that you’re familiar with)…

See you next session!

Yes, No, or Maybe So: One-Sentence Reviews of 2009 Albums

Originally posted 2010-03-27 12:30:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

(Arranged in ascending order by release date)

With so many albums being released every week, what are they all like?  Which are worth your time?  These one-sentence reviews are the answers to those questions!

Battle Studies – (John Mayer) – MAYBE

(November 17, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Battle Studies may not be Mayer’s best work, but as a thoughtfully arranged collection of songs, it’s head and shoulders above Continuum. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbreak Warfare” – “Assassin”

Alter the Ending – (Dashboard Confessional) – MAYBE

(November 10, 2009) Review: About mid-way through, some tracks begin to blend together, but there are some standout songs that are both upbeat and engaging. Top Two Tracks: “Belle of the Boulevard” – “Until Morning”

Sainthood – (Tegan and Sara) – MAYBE

(October 27, 2009) Review: Their best work since So Jealous. Top Two Tracks: “Someday” – “Don’t Rush”

One Fast Move or I’m Gone – (Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard) – MAYBE

(October 20, 2009) Review: Not a breathtaking masterpiece by any means, but there is a hypnotic quality to the combination of Farrar and Gibbard’s sounds and Jack Kerouac’s words. Top Two Tracks: “These Roads Don’t Move” – “California Zephyr”

The Fountain – (Echo & the Bunnymen) – MAYBE SO

(October 12, 2009) Review: Most reviews have jumped to the extremes, and mine is no exception; The Fountain is an outstanding rock album from a band that most major music magazines have essentially ignored. Top Two Tracks: “Live of a Thousand Crimes” – “Drivetime”

Forget and Not Slow Down – (Relient K) – YES

(October 6, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Hands down the best concept album of the year, perhaps the best album of the year overall. Top Two Tracks: “Part of It” – “Sahara”

Backspacer – (Pearl Jam) – YES

(September 20, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: This is the album that may single-handedly be responsible for my eventual hearing loss – it’s simply too much fun not to listen to at high volumes. Top Two Tracks: “Got Some” – “Speed of Sound”

Levitate – (Bruce Hornsby & the Noise Makers) – NO

(September 15, 2009) Review: I try to avoid comparisons to past work, but this new Hornsby album is just a little too far out from the norm for my tastes. Top Two Tracks: “Space is the Place” – “In the Low Country”

A Brief History of Love – (The Big Pink) – NO, PLEASE, NO!

(September 14, 2009) Review: I’m reminded of the Byrds song “Everybody Gets Burned” – if you have any respect for rock music, steer clear of this album and do your best to never consider this band and the amazing debut release of The Band (to which their name alludes) in the same thought. Top Two Tracks: n/a

Humbug – (Arctic Monkeys) – MAYBE SO

(August 25, 2009) Review: The distance between how little I like early songs like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” compared with how much I like this new release is vast; overall, Humbug has a cohesive, infectious, and interesting sound, blending alternative rock/punk stylings with echoes of the Who and the Moody Blues in all the right places. Top Two Tracks: “Crying Lightning” – “Cornerstone”

My Old, Familiar Friend – (Brendan Benson) – MAYBE SO

(August 18, 2009) Review: From “A Whole Lot Better” onward, Benson’s latest release is joyful power pop that borrows generously from the sixties and seventies; it’s a great deal of fun from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Garbage Day” – “Misery”

Release – (Sister Hazel) – MAYBE NOT

(August 18, 2009) Review: This album is the perfect choice for background music: it is consistently upbeat without being too frenetic, certainly won’t offend anyone, and yet isn’t likely to inspire or even excite anyone either – the heinous typos in the booklet don’t help their cause. Top Two Tracks: “Vacation Rain” – “Ghost in the Crowd”

Ursa Major – (Third Eye Blind) – MAYBE NOT

(August 17, 2009) Review: There will supposedly be another 3eb release soon titled Ursa Minor, culled from tracks that didn’t make the cut for this album; suffice it to say that Ursa Major gets an “eh” and barely a “Maybe Not” rating with the so-called best songs from their recent sessions, so… Top Two Tracks: “Bonfire” – “Summer Town”

xx – (The xx) – MAYBE SO

(August 17, 2009) Review: This debut release by the xx is a gripping, murky, beautiful collection of songs that won’t fail to draw you in to their world each listen. Top Two Tracks: “VCR” – “Shelter”

The Ruminant Band – (Fruit Bats) – MAYBE SO

(August 4, 2009) Review: Aptly titled after the Fruit Bats took twice as long as usual to release this record, The Ruminant Band is worth all the extra wait time:  still quirky but with a lot more energy, backbeat, and attention to making a great album, rather than just a compilation of songs. Top Two Tracks: “The Ruminant Band” – “Singing Joy to the World”

Strange Cousins From The West – (Clutch) – MAYBE NOT

(July 14, 2009) Review: You’ll have to go back to Blast Tyrant or so if you want original, innovative Clutch; what you’ll find here is confined by the blues parameters the band has imposed on themselves – which is not to say you won’t find largely powerful performances of largely predictably structured songs and a couple true gems. Top Two Tracks: “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” – “Minotaur”

Horehound – (The Dead Weather) – MAYBE SO

(July 14, 2009) Review: The Dead Weather certainly deserve credit for having forged a unique sound and presence – Jack White best described their music as “ferocious” – but the riffing, repetition, and other indulgences can be distracting; overall, as a debut release, Horehound is promising… Top Two Tracks: “I Cut Like A Buffalo” – “Hang You From the Heavens”

Ocean Eyes – (Owl City) – MAYBE

(July 14, 2009) Review: A bit too placid for me, but I can perceive at least part of the reason that this album’s simple, soothing numbers have spread so quickly and been embraced by so many. Top Two Tracks: “Fireflies” – “The Bird and the Worm”

American Central Dust – (Son Volt) – NO

(July 7, 2009) Review: As the title implies, Son Volt’s latest album could have been found buried in a collection of Americana; while it certainly hits high points on certain tracks, the simplicity of the arrangements and even the packaging (no lyrics – really?) confine this album to mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “No Turning Back” – “Jukebox of Steel”

Leaving Wonderland…in a fit of rage – (Marcy Playground) – MAYBE

(July 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Overall, Leaving Wonderland hits emotional pay dirt with the theme of losing love and youth to the ravages of time, and yet John Wozniak’s lyrics and arrangements leave much to be desired in terms of depth and artistry. Top Two Tracks: “Gin and Money” – “I Burned the Bed”

Wilco (the album) – (Wilco) – YES

(June 30, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: An atypically brief release, Wilco (the album) is dominated by a wide range of interesting sounds and ideas all packed into tight tracks that ebb and flow just right; multiple listens are a must. Top Two Tracks: “Wilco (the song)” – “You Never Know”

Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King (Dave Matthews Band) – MAYBE

(June 2, 2009) Review: “DMB” has produced a very strong album that starts off with focused, expressive tracks yet lags somewhat in the second half’s instrumental, repetitive, and nonsensical indulgences. Top Two Tracks: “Funny The Way It Is” – “Time Bomb”

Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane (Elvis Costello) – MAYBE SO

(June 2, 2009) Review: Finally, a stripped-down recording from a rock artist that doesn’t reek of the urge to “jump on the acoustic train”; Costello’s songs here could just as convincingly  have been recorded a century ago. Top Two Tracks: “Complicated Shadows” – “Sulphur to Sugarcane”

21st Century Breakdown (Green Day) – YES

(May 15, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Another concept album of epic proportions from Green Day:  big, in-your-face power chords at some points, acoustic guitar and piano high in the mix at others, and strong vocals all around – a well-executed album from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Last Night on Earth” – “East Jesus Nowhere”

Together Through Life (Bob Dylan) – MAYBE SO

(April 28, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: As per usual, Dylan says it best: “I know my fans will like it; other than that, I have no idea.” Top Two Tracks: “Shake Shake Mama” – “I Feel a Change Comin’ On”

Tinted Windows (Tinted Windows) – NO

(April 21, 2009) Review: I remembered while listening to this that there’s a reason I stopped buying Fountains of Wayne albums since Traffic & Weather, and there’s certainly a reason I’ve never bought Hanson albums. Top Two Tracks: “Back With You” – “Nothing to Me”

Halfway There (Jim Fusco) – YES

(April 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: It’s as if all of Fusco’s previous work was only “halfway there” – combining ambitious vocals, innovative guitar parts, and a track listing that boasts eleven great songs, this is easily one of the great albums of 2009. Top Two Tracks: “I Got You” – “Ruins”

The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists) – MAYBE NOT

(March 24, 2009) Review: The Hazards of Love will keep you guessing and trying to piece it all together, but it may not get a lot of immediate repeat listens based on the quality of individual songs; kudos to the Decemberists if only for keeping the concept of the concept album alive and well! Top Two Tracks: “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid” – “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”

No Line On The Horizon (U2) – MAYBE NOT

(March 3, 2009) Review: There’s something to be said for Bono’s energy, but it’s not always enough on this record which fluctuates between moments of mastery and moments of mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” – “Stand Up Comedy”

Keep It Hid (Dan Auerbach) – MAYBE

(February 10, 2009) Review: Essentially, what you would expect — gritty, bluesy rock with excellent guitar work. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbroken, In Disrepair” – “My Last Mistake”

Working On A Dream (Bruce Springsteen) – MAYBE SO

(January 27, 2009)  –  CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: The past three Springsteen albums have been exercises in purposeful songwriting, raw acoustic and harmonica work, and upbeat pop/rock respectively — Working On A Dream has it all! Top Two Tracks: “What Love Can Do” – “Life Itself”

The Road to Nyack – Playlists on Parade

I’ll be driving my sister and her boyfriend back to New York soon.  Seeing as how I have a full gas tank already and recently brought my car for an oil change, I figured the best way to prepare for the trip was to make a playlist.

No brainer, right?

So, I’ve spent much longer than I should have rooting around among my iTunes archives to find a selection of songs that is varied, caters to both of our tastes, and will be good for a road trip.  This was a bit more difficult than I initially anticipated, but I finally have a final sequence that will last the entire hour and a half journey (give or take).

You’ll find some songs that Jaime first introduced me to via her consistently high-quality compilations, songs like “Anti-Christ Television Blues” from Arcade Fire and “I Just Do” by Dear & the Headlights.  Other songs are my picks from albums that she introduced me to, tracks like Right Away, Great Captain’s “What A Pity” and Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.”

I would have liked to include a different track by the Hush Sound (“A Dark Congregation” is a song that she included on a compilation), but I haven’t picked up a copy of their 2008 album Goodbye Blues yet.

Emphasis on “yet”…

The rest of the playlist is populated by blasts from the past, like the opener from Relient K, as well as a healthy helping of new 2010 tracks that I want her to hear (the songs from the Black Keys, the Hold Steady, Locksley, and Spoon).  And, of course, I couldn’t resist Bob Dylan and Beach Boys songs with New York in the title, as well as the only song I know of that refers to Nyack in the lyrics: Fountains of Wayne’s “Little Red Light.”

So, that’s my thought process on the creation of this playlist.  If you can think of any songs I should have added, comment as soon as possible so I can make the necessary updates!  :-)

1)  “My Way or the Highway…” – Relient K

2)  “I Just Do” – Dear & the Headlights

3)  “Asleep in the Chapel” – Thursday

4)  “Hard Times in New York Town” – Bob Dylan

5)  “Cream and Bastards Rise” – Harvey Danger

6)  “16 Military Wives” – The Decemberists

7)  “Drive My Car” (Live from Good Evening New York City) – Paul McCartney

8)  “Tighten Up” – The Black Keys

9)  “Am I Ever Gonna Find Out” – Lifehouse

10)  “Get Back” (from Love) – The Beatles

11)  “Hustle and Cuss” – The Dead Weather

12)  “The Girl From New York City” – The Beach Boys

13)  “Try” – Straylight Run

14)  “The Fixer” – Pearl Jam

15)  “What A Pity” – Right Away, Great Captain

16)  “Drive” – Incubus

17)  “Blue Orchid” (Live from Under Great White Lights) – The White Stripes

18)  “Soft in the Center” – The Hold Steady

19)  “21st Century” – Locksley

20)  “A Dark Congregation” – The Hush Sound

21)  “The Vampires of New York” – Marcy Playground

22)  “Anti-Christ Television Blues” – Arcade Fire

23)  “Hop a Plane” – Tegan & Sara

24)  “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” – Neutral Milk Hotel

25)  “California Zephyr” – Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard

26)  “Little Red Light” – Fountains of Wayne

27)  “Written In Reverse” – Spoon

28)  “Everybody Learns From Disaster” – Dashboard Confessional