Brett Dennen’s “Hope for the Hopeless” (2008) – Yes, No, or Maybe So

Brett Dennen’s Hope for the Hopeless (2008) – YES

Brett Dennen's

Brett Dennen's "Hope for the Hopeless" (2008)


Sounding like the best parts of Jack Johnson and Gavin DeGraw rolled into one – with a Dylan-esque vocal flair here and there – Brett Dennen’s Hope for the Hopeless is the great album of 2008 that I missed; I love Johnson and Jakob Dylan, but this acoustic rock album blows Sleep Through the Static and Seeing Things away! (…a conclusion supported by the fact that the always frustrating Rolling Stone reviewers barely acknowledged this great release with three stars and a lukewarm paragraph of backhanded compliments.)

Top Two Tracks:

“Heaven” & “San Francisco”

The Weekend Review: April 2011 Report

By Chris Moore:

After a much-too-lengthy absence, the Weekend Review returns.  If I hope to catch up on all the months worth of music that I’ve missed, it’s going to have to be more concise.  But I’m determined!  Stop back soon — as the year winds down, there’s sure to be something new here just about every day, whether it be a cover song music video, a music review, or a “best of” list to celebrate the year of new music.

Brett Dennen

April 12, 2011

2.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Sydney (I’ll Come Running)” & “Dancing at a Funeral”

This album falls into that enigmatic class of records that defy a clear rating.  Working on the five star system, a three star rating suggests not only an enjoyable experience but also a general mediocrity that is inescapable.  One star records are unlistenable, either for a lack of interesting songwriting and/or performance ability.  A five star album offers beautiful, masterful, thoughtful musical near-perfection.  What Brett Dennen’s Loverboy offers splits the rating system.  The first six tracks are excellent, some of the best songs of the year even – “Sydney (I’ll Come Running),” “Surprise, Surprise,” “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog).”  These songs are vibrant and upbeat, musically interesting, and catchy sing-a-longs waiting to happen.  However, some of their brilliance threatens to be lost in the sidestep presented by the second half.  Somewhere around track seven, Dennen flips a switch and the ostensible motivation from there on appears to be a trip down memory lane, picking up retro elements and fusing them with the sound he has heretofore established on Loverboy.  “Only Rain” sounds like a take on the Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers sound (“Just the Two of Us,” anyone?).  “Song for Leaving” also adopts a late seventies, early eighties feel.  This is to take nothing away from these songs; they are, in fact, quite good if you’re open to this brand of derivative composition.  The tracks I didn’t mention – “Queen of the Westside” being the exemplar among them – I can’t say the same for.  Some of these latter half tracks are masturbatory at best, like the intro tag to “Queen.”  They simply lack the craftsmanship of the first six songs on this album, not to mention the songs on his previous releases.  Perhaps the most perplexing aspect to note is the material Dennen chose not to include on the album.  The two Amazon MP3 exclusives – “Walk Away, Watch Me Burn” and “Alone Again” – not only should have been included but also should have replaced some of the tracks on the album proper.


  Wasting Light
Foo Fighters
Butch Vig

April 12, 2011

4.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Arlandria” & “Rope”

Hands down, one of the best rock albums by any band in recent memory.  Wasting Light reminded me what a rock album is supposed to be like, and it would not be overstatement to say that the Foo Fighters – surprisingly, given their (in this writer’s opinion) bland album sequencing ability – have encouraged a reconsideration of what I have liked in recent music.  As I’ve stretched out my tastes and sensibilities, I may have forgotten the value and the appeal of a scorching opener like “Bridge Burning,” a riff-centric single like “Rope,” or a raw, guttural track like “White Limo.”  “Arlandria” is classic Foo Fighters at their prime, blending smooth vocals into all-out screams of choruses and torrents of distortion guitar blasts.   The album takes a fade to a degree after the halfway point, but this even the second half is eminently listenable. I haven’t had a good thing to say about a Foo Fighters album since The Colour and the Shape, but Wasting Light breaks that drought.  One of the best of the year, and my favorite rock album since R.E.M.’s Accelerate in 2008.


So Beautiful or So What
Paul Simon

Phil Ramone & Paul Simon

April 11, 2011

1.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Rewrite” & “So Beautiful or So What”

Paul Simon has, without question after the critical reception of this album, received some sort of honorary status as an untouchable.  That So Beautiful or So What has earned such high praise is an otherwise indecipherable phenomenon to me.  If reverb hadn’t been invented previously, then I might understand the fuss.  Sure, the vocals are smooth, even beautiful in places,  but the lyrics are juvenile and the songwriting is structurally loose, depending on certain sounds and feels to guide the track rather than true progressions and thoughtful crafting of movements.  Turns out I find much of it beautiful, but I’m strongly in the “so what?” camp.  Take note, though: it’ll make for pleasant background music at your next gathering of fifty- to sixty-somethings.


  Nine Types of Light
TV on the Radio

April 11, 2011

3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“New Cannonball Blues” & “No Future Shock”

In the manner its sounds and sequencing flow along the same lines as its synthetic medium, Nine Types of Light is a success.  When it does find a catchy line or beat, however, TV on the Radio seem to rely too heavily on it, often failing to develop much beyond what is established early.  This criticism, however, should not undercut the standouts, like the cool “No Future Shock” and the fuzzy, dance trip of “New Cannonball Blues.”


The TOP FIFTY SONGS of 2011 (The Year-End Awards)

By Chris Moore:

At last, we arrive at the second most important list of the year: the top fifty songs.  This is the list that takes me the longest every time, even more time than the albums list.  This might be helped in part because I start writing my best albums list as early as summertime, but it’s also because I find albums easier to evaluate and rate than individual songs; oftentimes, songs shift and flux up and down over the year.

This year, my greatest challenge was finding a place for two of my former (mOu) and current (the DKBH) bandmate Mike Fusco’s new releases.  I typically avoid having one artist hog the top spots, but the truth was that I couldn’t honestly deny “Modern-Day Pocahontas” the top spot, and I tried but couldn’t come to terms with placing “Chasing Pigeons” any lower than second, even below such outstanding tracks as Brett Dennen’s “Sydney” or Wilco’s “Born Alone.”  If this reduces the authenticity of my list, then so be it: this is my honest assessment of the best fifty songs of 2011.

1)  “Modern-Day Pocahontas” – Mike Fusco

2)  “Chasing Pigeons” – Mike Fusco

3)  “Sydney (I’ll Come Running)” – Brett Dennen

4)  “Born Alone” – Wilco

5)  “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” – Noah and the Whale

6)  “Arlandria” – Foo Fighters

7)  “Give It All Back” – Noah and the Whale

8)  “Rox in the Box” – The Decemberists

9)  “Hello” – Gerry Beckley

10) “Buckner’s Bolero” – The Baseball Project

11) “All That You Are” – Goo Goo Dolls

12) “Lost All My Ambition” – Mike Fusco

13) “Suicide Policeman” – Yuck

14) “Jejune Stars” – Bright Eyes

15) “Uberlin” – R.E.M.

16) “New Year’s Eve” – Tom Waits

17) “Codex” – Radiohead

18) “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog) – Brett Dennen

19) “Black and Yellow” – Wiz Khalifa

20) “Lonely Boy” – Black Keys

21) “Two Against One” – Danger Mouse, Danielle Luppi, and Jack White

22) “Rope” – Foo Fighters

23) “Ambulance” – Eisley

24) “Face in the Crowd” – Joseph Arthur

25) “Feel” – Gerry Beckley

26) “This is Why We Fight” – The Decemberists

27) “Jardin Du Luxembourg” – The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

28) “Till I Get There” – Lupe Fiasco

29) “Dawned on Me” – Wilco

30) “Fire Fly” – Childish Gambino

31) “Release Me” – Jack’s Mannequin

32) “Tangie and Ray” – The Fruit Bats

33) “Season’s Trees” – Danger Mouse, Danielle Luppi, and Norah Jones

34) “Us Against the World” – Coldplay

35) “Surprise, Surprise” – Brett Dennen

36) “Triple Spiral” – Bright Eyes

37) “Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart” – Fountains of Wayne

38) “Wonder Why” – Vetiver

39) “Art of Almost” – Wilco

40) “Don’t Carry It All” – The Decemberists

41) “Don’t Call Them Twinkies” – The Baseball Project

42) “You and Me” – Parachute

43) “Police Station” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

44) “Titty’s Beer” – Colt Ford (feat. Trent Tomlinson)

45) “Don’t Try and Hide It” – The Dodos

46) “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride” – Vanessa Carlton

47) “Ruined” – Hannah Fair

48) “Because the Origami” – 8in8

49) “Bad As Me” – Tom Waits

50) “Fly Solo” – Wiz Khalifa


Honorable Mention:

“Factory of Faith” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Raw (How You Like It)” – Common [late entry]

“Keep On Knocking” – The Cars

“Damn These Vampires” – The Mountain Goats

“San Francisco” by Brett Dennen (Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

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

I’m back again tonight after a short sabbatical.  I’m glad to present a great song, “San Francisco” off of Brett Dennen’s 2009 album “Hope for the Hopeless”.

I’ve been in love with this album ever since my friend (and boss) Bill gave me the album to listen to.  I’ve since purchased it on vinyl- you’ll see my copy behind me in the video.

I’ve also been purchasing a lot of new albums on vinyl, including Jack Johnson’s “To the Sea” and “Stone Temple Pilots”, both of which I haven’t listened to yet.  I’m getting myself ready for the STP album by listening to their previous effort, “Shangri-La-Dee-Dah”.  Jeff always used to talk about that album, so I asked for it for my birthday and I’m loving the album.  I’m so excited about the new disc!  Actually, I did listen to it once while transferring my vinyl copy over to the computer using my brother’s ION USB turntable.  Mine’s on the fritz…of course…

I’ve been taking it a bit easier lately, which is good because it’s been BUSY.  I’ve gotten a lot more done around the house and have been watching my Mets, who’ve been on a big roll lately.

I hope to keep up with this light Laptop Sessions schedule- I’ll definitely make it a point to.

Anyway, I’ve wanted to record “San Francisco” for a very long time now and was happy to get the opportunity now.  What’s cool is that Brett Dennen himself used his Martin D-28 acoustic guitar to record this album.  Hearing his great sound and great songs was a factor in my choosing a Martin, too.  Even though mine cost about half the price of his, mine’s still all solid wood and (in my opinion) sounds just as good!  Remember all the research I did?  Well, I truly believe I got the best I could for the money.

Over the next few weeks, I plan on covering songs from Ringo Starr, Scissor Sisters, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Jack Johnson, and Stone Temple Pilots- ALL of whom have albums out this summer!  So, the cover song list keeps on growing.  So, have a great Tuesday and be sure to come back again for another Laptop Session with Jim Fusco soon!