New Classics: Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers by The National (2003)

Love being a losing game was a big theme back in 2003, the year of Beck’s Sea Change and its equal partner in romantic shame, Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers. So why did one become instantly lauded as one of the greatest albums of all time (Sea Change) and one fall through the cracks (Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers)?  The simple answer would be name recognition, with Beck holding the obvious advantage over a Brooklyn by way of Cincinnati band’s sophomore effort. Yet Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers is the better album.

Continue reading New Classics: Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers by The National (2003)


New Classics: Looking Back On Big Echo by The Morning Benders

Of the many albums that have come out in my years as a music blogger, there are a choice few that really stand out as excellent albums and one of my favorites, the one that I will start with, is Big Echo by The Morning Benders.

It’s strange to realize that the album, or LP (whichever suits your preference) has once again taken a back seat to the single.  Thanks to the internet’s ability to grant us instant gratification, most listeners no longer have the patience to sit through an album.  iTunes and other per-MP3 vendors are in part responsible for this, as it’s a much cheaper deal to buy a single song for a dollar than a whole album for 10 or more.

But what of the exceptions? The listeners who do still crave a full album experience? It’s for them that I chose Big Echo, an album whose first 4 tracks are absolutely stellar as stand alone numbers, while the remaining tracks work more as a cohesive unit, one that rewards repeated listens.

Continue reading New Classics: Looking Back On Big Echo by The Morning Benders

Modern Classics: G. Love, The Hustle (2004), Lemonade (2006)

While the previous post Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga has more of a city at night atmosphere to it, G. Love’s The Hustle and Lemonade are  pure and sweet summer efforts.  The vibe going in and out,bright rock to organic, and funky to campfire acoustic like waves dancing to and fro with the shore.  While his pal Jack Johnson is better known for his appreciation of the laid back style, G. Love is no slouch and while his varying styles have kept his albums interesting over the years he lacked cohesion until he joined forces with Brushfire Records, Johnson’s label.  G. Love (or Garrett Dutton)  has since expressed that he wasn’t a fan of the mainstream record labels, saying there was too much push for lead singles rather than time to focus on albums, at Brushfire he would have ample time to produce what he wanted with complete creative leeway.  The Hustle would be his first effort for the label, dropping in 2004 with radio friendly Booty Call and Back of the Bus, the former an entertaining narrative, the latter a nonsensical song with a chorus that just wouldn’t keep out of your head.  Lemonade would follow two years later, filled with guest appearances that only augment the album, rather than harm its integrity, both are perfect for summer, and a little warm weather music is just what we need right now.

1.  Astronaut

Astronaut is one hell of a ride, an updated blue romp, you’d be hard pressed to find any song by Led Zeppelin or the Who that matches the sheer intensity of the drumming on this one.  G. Love and his boys had something to prove and their energy on this one is fantastic.

2.  Don’t Drop It

G. Love isn’t going for lyrical depth on this one, he’s clearly just having fun on this one backed by a funky groove and some great harmonica fills.

3.  Love

This acoustic based, 70’s styled tune is a nice change of pace to the album, the chord changes are perfect, the arrangement is lively and upbeat and the guitar is fantastic.

4. Booty Call

Fun story, great loose arrangement, great song.  You’ll be singing along before the song is over.

5. Give it To You

Just a sweet reggae tune, with fantastic production.

6.  The Hustle

The laid back arrangement on this one is probably the most creative instrumentally on the whole album, the bass cello works perfectly.

7. Front Porch Lounger

One of my favorite songs on the album, laid back acoustic arrangement with a nice lead guitar overdub.

8.  Loving Me

G. Love may not be the best rapper, but he’s quite a natural songwriter, so when he strips back his rapping persona it’s quite a pleasure, and he’s a beautiful acoustic guitar player.

9. Waiting

Another organic acoustic tune with a great upright bass part and guitar play, it plays out like the more somber laid back version of Love.

10. Fishing Song

G. Love is back to his upbeat funky romp style on this one, and let me give you a hint, he’s not talking about sitting on a boat with a fishing rod. Nice guitar and organ work on this one as well as a very catchy hook (no pun intended).

11. Back of the Bus

sha la la lalalala la la.

12. Two Birds

This song comes completely out of left field, a laid back latin groove, a welcome change of pace.

13. Stone Me

In terms of atmosphere this is probably the most laid back track on the album, reverbed hand drumming and some great acoustic guitar work along with a double-tracked vocal.

14.  Sunshine

G. Love has a habit of ending all of his albums with just him alone with his acoustic guitar, and often its the most endearing on the album, its just a perfect late afternoon song, when the sun’s going down and the sky is beginning to get dark.

1.  Ride

Like that first day of summer where you just jump in your car and roll down your windows without a care in the world.

2.  Ain’t that Right

The production on this is immaculate, filled with all sorts of guitar effects and a tight rhythm section.

3.  Hot Cookin’

Like sitting around a warm campfire on the beach.

4.  Can’t Go Back to Jersey

Nice warm organ, a funky romping beat, and a howling harmonica line, it can’t get much better than this. Great production on this one.

5.  Missing My Baby

A nice easy groove of a song that again features great instrumentation and production, the addition of a viola is a nice touch along with the guitars organ bass and drums.  Love the Ray Charles styled organ solo 3/4 the way through.

6.  Holla!

One of my favorite songs on the album with some great Clavinet and piano flourishes along with a nice chorus (pretty much the same as Jack and Diane), and a nice funky arrangement.

7.  Banger

This song features Blackalicious as guest rappers and it’s a great match of musical styles, almost Gorillaz-esque in how it plays out with a more organic focus, with organ, clavinet, and harmonica helping with the arrangement.

8.  Thanks and Praise

This song features G. Love with his longtime friend Jasper, a rapper who judging by this record should be well known.  The organic sample is absolutely on fire, with a bouncing bass line and circular guitar licks and a nice back beat.

9.  Let the Music Play

You can almost feel the heat of a long hot summers day listening to this song.  Great production and guest appearances by Ben Harper and Marc Broussard.  A nice slow burner that wouldn’t be out of place in Beck’s catalogue. Great harmonies throughout too.

10. Free

Featuring pretty much the same words as The Hustle on the album previous, whats great is the instrumental arrangement and overall production.  The circular guitar line, the solid drumming funky back beat, the swelling buildup of the music and the nicely placed backing harmonies.

11.  Beautiful

My favorite song on the album and one of my favorite songs ever, starting with a mellow upright bass intro, the song opens up into an acoustic duet between Tristan Prettyman and G. Love whose voices match perfectly as well as their different vocal styles.  A great production mix of hand drumming and standard drumming with nice string additions and warmly recorded acoustic and electric guitars.  Just a song you can put on repeat for days.

12.  Rainbow

One of those, I just want to spend my whole day at the beach kind of songs, great harmony between Jack Johnson and G. Love too and a nice bluesy warm organic production.

13. Breakin’ Up

A somber song with a brooding arrangement to match, slow and beautiful in its own way, and quite a change of pace from the rest of the album.

14. Still Hangin’ Round/Sneakster

G. Love and his acoustic guitar, singing a nice tongue in cheek blues love song, with a hidden track tucked in at the end.

Edit 2/13/10: Fixed Lemonade files, they should be up and running now, sorry about the delay
Continue reading Modern Classics: G. Love, The Hustle (2004), Lemonade (2006)

Modern Classics: Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, (2007)

Along with being a mouthful, Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a modern masterpiece.  The oft-mislabeled as indie band from Austin, Texas managed to create an atmosphere on the album that unfolds much like its cover; unique little pieces for each arrangement culminating in a work more beautiful in the eyes of its beholders as a whole.

Spoon is headed up by the unique combination of songwriter/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer/arranger Jim Eno and both play a distinctive part in the band’s sound. Spoon is no stranger to the headlines in the indie music scene, famously being dropped by their first major label, Spoon caught fire with their debut record A Series of Sneaks which contained two not so subtle digs at former Elektra A&R man Ron Laffitte “The Agony of Laffitte” and “Laffitte Don’t Fail Me Now”. Though they had previously echoed a sound made famous by groups like The Pixies and Wire, album by album Spoon whittled down their style bit by bit, making it into a modernist painting, an ode to the darkly tinged psychedelia that permeated The Beatles Revolver and The White Album. There’s a great argument to be made in how Spoon became more like The Beatles than their previous influences, there’s an equal, if not greater effort put into the song’s overall production rather than just the songwriting itself. Again like The Beatles,  there are no flashy solos, no parts where the individual is recognized over the whole.  This quality, most noticeable on this record, is perhaps what keeps Spoon going, there are no ego battles, just musicians focused on the music.

Continue reading Modern Classics: Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, (2007)