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Monday, March 31, 2008


Dear Audio Overflow Reader,

I regret to inform you that Jill, our writer of four months and a huge help to me in the day-to-day happenings of Audio Overflow, has decided that it is time for her to move on from this crazy endeavor.  In her short time with the blog, Jill brought musical opinions from a completely different side of the music spectrum and helped to expand the coverage of music on Audio Overflow.

I am truly appreciative of her help and wish her the best of luck in the future.  Thanks for everything, Jill.

For the time being, I will not be seeking to fill the spot vacated by Jill and will be taking over the Moods Feature that she helmed.  As always, I'll keep you posted on any other happenings in the near future.  Thanks for reading.


PS.  If you have any parting words for Jill, you can always leave a comment below.

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myspace musc monday: After the Ground and You

If you are able to recall several weeks ago, I wrote about a young man by the name of Nick McKerl whose music showed promise, but was still lacking severely. Well, Nick has been kind enough to keep in contact with Audio Overflow, and has introduced me to some new music that he's created.

After the Ground and You

Genre: Electro/Lounge
Location: Ile-de-France, France
Band Members: Nick
Influences: Phasmophobia and Scotomaphobia

The Short of It: Instrumental, electronic music that can be both soothing and invigorating.

"Jumping Ghost Runways" - A very relaxing electro song that mixes glitch production with very rich guitars and other instrumentation. There are smatterings of Jimmy Tamborello all over the place on this one and Nick mixes things up consistently to where the song never gets too boring or repetitive.

"Mercury Fields" - This one sounds like something that Chris Walla could've worked up had be been chosen to produce a Sigur Ros album. The guitars are especially reminiscent of the band's sound from the "( )" record. There is a moment at about the 3:30 mark where the melody comes back in from a haunting piano "solo" where I felt that it would've just been best to leave it as is. But it's still an impressive number.

"Curtain Call" (Sample) - As the name would suggest, this is just a short sample of a longer song (perhaps it's not finished yet?). So far things are looking good, but I'm not making a definitive judgment until I can hear the entire thing.

"A Copper Film" - Again very reminiscent of Sigur Ros, this one sounds a lot like Song No. 3 from th "( )" album, especially the pianos. It's a short, solemn song that doesn't really go anywhere, but the musicality of it is enough to make me somewhat appreciative of it.

"For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" - I can't honestly give this one an unbiased opinion seeing as how Sufjan Stevens is one of my favorite artists, and this is one of his best songs. The cover doesn't come anywhere close to doing the original justice, but do they ever?

"Olson Read" - There's a really annoying vocal track that talks over the entire song, which is a huge disappointment. The production and music is actually very impressive, but I can't think of a song where a person talks through its entirety that I've ever been totally into.

The Long of It: Nick, I'm sorry to say that I enjoy your music a whole lot more when you're not singing. That's not a mean-spirited comment either, just an honest one. Your work in composing all of these songs proves your talent and leaves me entirely impressed. If you want my honest opinion, I'd focus on this aspect of your work and really aim to make it better than it already is. If you do need to add vocals (some songs just need vocals, you know?), don't let them overpower the music. Let them be complementary and subtle. Good luck to you in your musical endeavors and keep me, and the Audio Overflow readers, posted on your new stuff.

After the Ground and You myspace Page

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Avril Lavigne: Let Go

I know that Avril Lavigne isn't really what you think of when you think of Alternative Rock, but hey, she is. Let Go is a fascinating debut album in that it's completely original and mostly talented. I can remember the first time I'd heard this album. I'd never heard of her, but my brother had a bootleg copy of Let Go which he'd let me borrow when I came home from my first year at college. At first I thought she was in her early 20's; a newer version of Alanis Morissette. When I learned she was barely a teenager, I was shocked. After all, she was so young and had such a powerful voice. I'm jumping ahead of myself though...

Let Go is one of my favorite albums by a female. Is it perfect, no. Is it without flaws, absolutely not. What it is, is a great representation of Avril the person and a wonderfully sung album. Songs like "Losing Grip" and "Unwanted" are Avril at her finest. They aren't lyrically the best she has to offer, but they set the listener up for all of the other "tough" Avril music. The songs are angry and annoyed... classic Avril. That was the image that she chose to portray in the beginning (see album cover) and it worked. Tracks like "Complicated" and "Anything but Ordinary" are quirky little pieces that are at times a little cheesy, yet they portray the lighter side to Avril's music. "Complicated" has a tremendously memorable chorus. "Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated" are lyrics that have been sung by moms and daughters alike, due to the song's popularity not only rock stations, but also on mix hits stations. "Anything but Ordinary" also has a memorable chorus where Avril shows off the higher side of her range in a tale about wanting to do things in a not-so-average fashion. And really... would we expect anything less from her?

The songs "Mobile" and "Tomorrow" are two of my favorite songs on Let Go. However, they have nothing in common except the previous. "Mobile" is a peppy, clever track about Avril's adolescence, but if not taken too literally is a moving for anyone. The happy feel that the song has to it, makes it stand apart from others on the album. If I'm not mistaken, this piece was featured in the romantic comedy, "Just Married". Yet another example of how cheerful the song is. On the other hand, "Tomorrow" is a pretty ballad that upon hearing the first couple of notes sounds as if it will be unjustifiably stupid. I mean, the song begins with the word "and" (i.e. "...and I wanna believe you, when you tell me that it'll be okay...") Why "and"? Did we come in on the song in mid sentence? That little annoyance aside, the song is a great one. Although slower than most of the others, except "I'm with You", this is definitely one of her most heartfelt and un-Avril tracks on Let Go ...and I love it!

There are some certain, and possibly personal, downfalls to this album. "I'm With You" is not one of my favorite songs. It's not that I feel it's a bad song, but I think it's very vague in it's meaning. I can't figure out for the life of me who she is singing to. The lyrics make her sound either like an abandoned orphan or a desperately lonely person. Either one is fine, but after 100+ listens, I still don't know the answer. She sounds pretty though as she's hitting those high notes. "My World" is cute, but doesn't sound anything like Avril. It sounds more like a combination of Hillary Duff and Meredith Brooks. Sure, the voice sounds like Avril, but the content and melody of the song is overly peppy... something we've come to know she's not. Again though, she sings it well - very well in fact, so I can't complain too much.

My only two huge complaints on the album are the two dumbest tracks on the album: "Sk8er Boi" and "Nobody's Fool". I feel like both songs speak for their own stupidity, but since this is a review and I have to assume the reader has not heard the tracks, I will expound. "Sk8er Boi" is goofy because it's all "punk" but the lyrics are pretty Disney. I suppose there's nothing wrong with it if you want to see "Zack and Cody" singing the latest from Blink 182. Avril is just as weird in this song. You can expect to see this one in the next Pixar film if, unbeknownst to me, it hasn't already made it there. As for "Nobody's Fool", someone should have told Avril that maybe flowing wasn't her forte. Yep, you heard me correct. She "raps" on the verses of this song. Yet again, this one is lumped right into the same lame, childish category as "Sk8er Boi". Doesn't she know that when she is a no talent rapper, it's not cool to say "damn"... it just becomes awkward. The only salvation for this song is that she has a nice sound when she sings the chorus. Definitely a young Alanis. So what on earth was her producer thinking when he said, "Oh yeah, that's a wrap on the rap" ? It makes me angry.

All in all, Let Go is great, though I know the males in my life would run in the opposite direction if I encouraged them to listen to this album from start to finish. At the prospect of risking my "mysterious, somewhat autonomous" reputation on Audio Overflow, I'd venture to say that this album is one of my favorites. It's not the best of the best, but it's a pretty good debut... and for a young teenager? Well, I just can't remember the last time I thought, "Man, if only I could get a copy of Lindsey Lohan's new album".

Key Tracks:
1. Losing Grip
2. Complicated
3. Mobile
4. Tomorrow
5. Anything but Ordinary

6 out of 10 stars

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Top 25 Alternative Rock Albums (Albums 5-1)

So after 4 weeks of counting down Audio Overflow's Top 25 Alternative Rock Albums, we've finally made it to the Top 5. Be sure to let us know what we should have added and what we should have taken off.

#5. Our Lady Peace: Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch (1999)
Erin says: "A lot of the songs on this album are really unique and I truly get into them. I believe that Our Lady Peace's uniqueness is what makes their music so entertaining and memorable. The majority of the songs on this album definitely fall into that category. "

Cale says: "This was one of the first albums that I can remember liking all the way through. Each song on it is fantastic and passionately performed by the band. They have not matched the heights reached on this album since."

#4. Bush: Sixteen Stone (1994)
Erin says: "When I first saw the movie "Fear", I remember thinking, "I want this soundtrack", when someone next to me said, "just buy Sixteen Stone". Well, I never did, but that never stopped me from listening to, singing to, and respecting the many wonderful works of Bush. Gavin Rosdale's voice is one of my favorites and seemed to almost embody the concept of alternative rock...Or at least every 16 year old girl's stereotype."

Cale says: "Totally agree with Erin on that one. Gavin's voice truly makes this album what it is. The amount of quality songs contained on it is nearly unparalleled in the genre. Still, if it weren't for Gavin, I doubt anyone would've ever heard of this band."

#3. Nirvana: Nevermind (1991)
Cale says: "I think that for the most part, Kurt Cobain is one of the most overhyped vocalists of all time. When it's all said and done, he was downright terrible at vocals. Still, Nirvana was a band that started a music revolution, and Nevermind was truly ahead of its time."

Erin says: "Well it's no big secret that Nirvana is not one of my favorite why would I nominate them for the top 25? Well it's simple. Grunge is one of the subgenres commonly associated with alternative rock and since Nirvana was a HUGE turning point away from hairbands of the 80's, I respect them and this album. If not for this album (and this is heavily debated) I believe that music today would be entirely different. They were pioneers in the music industry...definitely innovators."

#2. Pearl Jam: Ten (1991)
Jill says: ""Alive" was and always has been one of the most stiring songs ever. It's the benchmark for a deep, dark story and I never took the chorus for anything inspirational. Sometimes being alive can be such a burden. "

Erin says: "Just awesome! There's a reason why most alternative stations still play a good majority of "Ten's" songs on the radio. They are still great songs over a decade later! I can't think of one song on this album that I hate. I really feel like Pearl Jam and this album take home the prize for being the most unique."

#1. Live: Throwing Copper (1994)
Cale says: "Words cannot accurately describe the greatness of this album. It came out when I was in middle school, and I have revered it highly ever since. "Pillar of Davidson" is one of my all-time favorite sing along songs and "Lightning Crashes" still sends chills down my spine. The greatness of Throwing Copper is only heightened by the sad truth that Live was never able to put together an album as solid as this ever again. But if there was an album on this list that deserved to be considered the greatest Alternative Rock album of all time, I'm happy it could be this one!"

Erin says: "If you've read my retro review on this album, then you already know my opinion. If you don't like it, you probably don't have ears. Throwing Copper is capable of stirring up many thoughts during it's course of play time. I have yet to listen to it and not have an overwhelming appreciation of their talent. Definitely my favorite alternative album!"

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Audio Overflow Turns Two!

On March 28, 2006, I wrote my very first music review for realsies.  The only people I expected to read it were a few close friends.  And I was right.

Two years later, I'm thrilled to say that Audio Overflow has grown to reach thousands of people each month.  Nowadays, Jill, Erin, and myself bring you much more than reviews.  We bring you videos, weekly Top 5 lists, playlists, and lots of opinions that you may or may not agree with.  

So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Erin and Jill for their continued help, and for the regular readers who stop by here to read all this nonsense that we can't help but write.


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Mike McCarroll: At The Crossroads

When you receive an album from a relatively unknown artist, it's always a surprise. You look at the album wondering what to expect from lyrics, instrumentation, and overall effect of the album. When I learned that Mike McCarroll's album At The Crossroads was a fusion of country, rock and blues, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I'm always a little bit hesitant when it comes to musical fusions, because it either works or it's a complete dud. Having said that, lets get to the reason we're all here...

For the most part, I like At The Crossroads purely for the fact that this album has great potential. While it's not my favorite genres of music, it's McCarroll's heart and soul, and quite literally, stories from his life. You have to respect when an artist is not so formulated as to manufacture a song from the thoughts of, "I know this works, so I'll do this" or "everyone else is doing that, so I will too". While there are elements to this album that do not sound entirely original, it is my opinion that Mike McCarroll has indeed achieved originality.

One of the characteristics I like about this album is, it's not all the same. So often, a band/artist will produce an album where every song is a carbon copy of the song prior. McCarroll's tracks are very different from one another, both in content and sound. "Business Traveler Blues" and "Road Rage" are two songs that instantly become stories. They are both rugged, yet upbeat tracks that are entirely about what their titles claim; no metaphors here. What I love about these two songs in particular is their uniqueness. How many other songs have you heard dealing with the art of road rage? Personally, I've heard of one other and McCarroll's is surpassing by miles.

Musically, both instrumentally and vocally, there are certain tracks that I enjoy more than others, particularly "Get It On", "Saturday Night" and "House of Blues". "Get It On" is probably my favorite song on this album because I love the different sounds in this composition. At it's beginning, McCarroll sets off with a "talking" verse and then sings right into the chorus. The chorus is my favorite section as it reminds me of a good old southern, classic rock hit; it's definitely a guitar driven song, which I'm quite fond of. "Saturday Night" is strangely similar to many other country songs due to its common sounds. The chorus in particular seems to have the same structure as "A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action", another very successful song. It's not a bad thing, as the familiarity works for him in this instance, but too much similarity will not bode well for any aspiring musician. Eventually, it becomes too routine. "House of Blues" is a very good piece that I could definitely hear as a country hit, with a little bit of tweaking. In fact, if he did not yet have this full album and only had select songs for a demo, I would highly recommend he put "House of Blues" on there, along with the two just mentioned. "House of Blues" has some elements which help its interest factor including a good use of vocal distortion in the beginning and heavy fiddle and steel guitar instrumentation, adding to the country feel. This is overall, one of McCarroll's stronger songs. The last track on the album, "I Wonder" also has a really intriguing flute feature, which grabs your attention almost immediately. It pairs nicely with the guitar.

While At The Crossroads has great potential, it doesn't come without it's flaws. "Must've Been Crazy" actually begins pretty unusual as McCarroll's voice suddenly reminds me of Tom Petty (not a bad thing), so at first I think, "Hey, this is different... I think I'll like this one". Almost as sure as I've said this to myself, the chorus comes at me and so do the female vocals, a.k.a. the main problem with this song. I think the girl/girls doing the vocal backing on this song have some pitch issues which are completely revealed in this song. It's hard to enjoy your listening from that point on because the female vocals are so obnoxious. Also, I'm not particularly fond of the way that the background vocals continue to hold long after McCarroll has cut off on the "I must've been crazy" sections; and also, if you can't do melismas (the embellishing of one note by singing several in its place -- i.e. Mariah Carey), then don't. They are awkward effects if not properly done. It's truly a shame since this song had the potential to be more appealing then it ended up being. In the track "I'm Down", I find myself generally enjoying the listening experience. However, I take issue with McCarroll's voice seeming a little more shaky and less confident than in others prior. There are several times throughout the song where his pitch becomes a little uneven.

I am certain that I would have enjoyed At The Crossroads more if I'd picked up on a particular style of McCarroll's throughout the album. I do like that he boldly chooses to fuse these genres together, but at some point, I feel like to be an artist who's really identifiable, you must have a niche. All the great one's have a niche that sets them apart and I would have liked to have seen him develop one as this album progressed. My only other real problem with this album is in the production realm. There are several times throughout At The Crossroads where I feel like the vocals are too far forward, exposing vocal imperfections and making the quality sound less professional. Examples of this can be found on tracks like, "Business Traveler Blues", "Train a-Movin' On", "Road Rage", and "I'm Down". The vocal mix on these songs stands out too much and could be softened a little to sound less "high school garage band-ish". The vocals shouldn't sound like they were laid down on one track with the instrumentation on another. Good producing should be able to form one cohesive sound through the mixing process. At times, especially during those mentioned tracks, I feel like the mix is a distraction, taking you away from the song itself and making the listener aware of notes which are a bit off. I'd hope to see this element worked with in further albums as well.

At the end of the day, Mike McCarroll's At The Crossroads is a nice album, once again, with a great deal of potential to spur him in new and exciting musical directions. Though there were some good tracks and some misses, I know that a great deal of work went into this album, and it shows. I look forward to hearing more from Mike McCarroll in the future.

Key Tracks
1. "Get It On"
2. "Saturday Night"
3. "House of Blues"

4 out of 10 stars

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The Top 5 Alternative Rock Bands That Should Have Never Existed

Just as a precursor to all of the greatness that you're about to read, I think I should note that I'm currently about the sickest I've ever been in my entire life right now.  If for some reason this post ends abruptly, it's most likely because my head has exploded into 347, 982 separate pieces and has completely ruined my MacBook in the process.  Anyhow, a few weeks ago, Erin listed 5 Alternative One Hit Wonders, and today I'd like to add to that list.  The following list is of 5 One Hit Wonders that were so bad that they never should have even existed!  What were we thinking?

5:  Fountains of Wayne - "Stacey's Mom" was a guilty pleasure for just about everybody back in the day.  And hey, who can blame you?  It was catchy, kinda funny, and the video featured Rachel Hunter in a bikini.  What's not to love?  Oh, I don't know...maybe the fact that the song is probably one of the most ridiculous pieces of music I've ever heard in my lie.  "Stacey's Mom has got it goin' on.  She's all I want and I've waited so long."  Really?  Thankfully, the band's other songs never caught on, and most of us never had to endure anything past this song.  Which is good, because that album was obscenely stupid.  I know because I owned it.  *sigh*

4:  Marcy Playground - I remember it being the summer of 1998 and doing this whole thing for marching band.  This jackass named Jeff is standing around singing this song ("Sex and Candy"), and I thought to myself, "Wow, he actually likes that song?"  That actually means a lot, because at the time I was into a lot of crappy music (The Offspring, mostly).  I don't know why I never liked this song, but as I'm listening to it on iMeem right now, I can't help but feel that I was right all along.  Here's a little snippet from the chorus for your reading pleasure:  "I smell sex and candy here.  Who's that lounging in my chair?  Who's that casting devious stares in my direction?"  Ahh, yes.  Such lyrical grace has only been seen on the rarest of occasions.  

3: Lit - I always love when those "Buzz" rock commercials come on and I get to hear 3 second clips of all the songs I used to love.  However, when Lit's "My Own Worst Enemy" comes on, I cringe just a little bit.  It's another one of those songs that was supposed to be funny, but just wound up being annoying.  "It's no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy, 'cause every now and then I kick the living shit out of me."  Oh, please do tell!  I'm so glad I didn't buy into this crap...I'm pretty sure my sister did though.  I wonder how she feels about that purchase today?

2:  Stabbing Westward - Funny story.  I'm walking through best buy about 4 or 5 years ago and I see Stabbing Westward's CD, Darkest Days, sitting there.  I thought, hey I remember them having that one song "Save Yourself" back in the day.  That song was cool!  So I bought it.  Bad idea.  As it turns out, "Save Yourself" is not a good song, and everything else on this album is even worse.  There's this running joke between me and my brother in law where I try to pawn this CD off on him.  He always refuses and it always goes right back on the CD shelf.  You know a CD is bad when you can't even give it away...

1:  Crazy Town - "Come my lady, come come my lady.  Be my butterfly sugar baby."  Oh, I can't even begin to tell you the depths of my hatred for this song and for the band responsible for it.  I remember watching an MTV interview with these guys around the time "Butterfly" came out.  The interviewer asked something along the lines of, "You released two singles before this song.  Did you know it would be such a huge hit." To which, the dude with the bleached blonde tips responded, "Oh yeah, we knew it would be huge.  But we didn't want to be remembered as the guys who made "Butterfly."  We wanted people to get into our other stuff too."  Hey, here's a question for everyone, name another Crazy Town song?  What?  You can't do it?  Don't worry, I doubt bleached blonde tips could do it either.  

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Moods - Jumbled

Sure signs there's a problem: the glazed look in one's eyes, the mumbling, the clear look of trying to figure something out. The questions and comments randomly thrown out there: is it? Isn't it? Which way what? How did you..." I don't get it. I followed the directions but it still doesn't work. I don't understand what you're talking about. Can you run that by me again? You're not making any sense. I just don't get it. *^#$&! (times about 100). Maybe if the directions were a little more elaborate. Just tell me what's going on.

Jumbled happens about fifty times a day for me and I imagine for everyone else too. There's no good explination for it, usually. I'm either not paying attention, not paying enough attention, don't care, not listening, don't want to do it whatever it is, have forgotten something important, or it's someone else's fault. Sometimes it can be a problem and sometimes it ends with a "Eh, whatever" or a victorious "OH! I got it!" Either way, it works itself out and I'm free to move on to the next endevour. Whatever it is, though, it leaves me in a state. One where words lack, my mind won't stop spinning at a million miles an hour and allow me to focus, and I hit the "forward" button halfway through each song that iTunes spits out for me because it just doesn't fit my mood.

Jumbled, as defined by Websters:

1. to mix in a confused mass; put or throw together without order
2. to confuse mentally; muddle.
3. to be mixed together in a disorderly heap or mass.
4. to meet or come together confusedly.
5. a mixed or disordered heap or mass
6. a confused mixture; medley.
7. a state of confusion or disorder.

Fitting for the day and for the exact mood I'm in, a play list built from hitting the forward button...because sometimes jumbled just happens...

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 64

"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the Fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"
"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"

The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt, 1821

Things that creep me out: spider webs, spiders no matter the size, the idea of being consumed by some arachnid while sleeping. This video, which seems to capture all that and Robert Smith's voluminous black hair.

It's certainly a classic in my book.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fuck Buttons: "Street Horrrsing"

Let's not try to make excuses here. Street Horrrsing is a terrible album. If you've followed the overhyped history of this British noise band from their humble roots in 2004 to the present day, then you are well-aware of the fact that this band has grown significantly since that time. Where their earlier "songs" found the band mixing an endless array of sounds, textures, and distortions to form completely incoherent catastrophes, Street Horrrsing shows a couple of guys who have added a few pleasing elements (ie. melody) to their music. The end result is still very much a disaster, but I didn't find myself hating it altogether.

"Noise rock," "experimental," and my personal favorite, "noisecore," are all terms that have been used to haphazardly describe Fuck Buttons' compositions. Perhaps void of "rock" and "core," the term "noise" would be much more appropriate. For the majority of Street Horrrsing's runtime, the group is more than content with assaulting your ears with a inappropriate level of distortion, background screams, and random electronic instrumentation. There are times when the band lets up a bit, like on "Ribs Out," where we're treated to several minutes of tribal drums and delayed monkey howl-esque vocals (I believe they are vocals). Lyrics (aside from indecipherable screams) are nowhere to be found on the album, which can't be a bad thing as I usually find it better when an artist learns to make music before they start singing along to them.

And while the sonic majesty and depth of Fuck Buttons' compositions are hardly debatable, the sheer difficulty of them are not. They're easy. When actual notes are played, they're usually part of a four-chord progression that continues throughout the length of the song. That's not such a deterrent for a 3-minute pop song, but seeing as how all but one of the songs on Street Horrrsing are over 7 1/2 minutes long, even the most impressive moments of the album start to wear thin eventually. Personally, I found "Sweet Love For Planet Earth" to be captivating until it hit the 6 minute line and just repeated the same thing for the next 3 minutes. Likewise, "Okay, Let's Talk About Magic" (the longest song on the album) is downright tedious.

That's not to say that Fuck Buttons is completely without talent or vision, however. I've found them to be a duo capable of both. The problem simply lies in the music that is presented on Street Horrrsing. To put it bluntly, it sounds completely amateur at times. Only two tracks have anything that sounds completely different from the other four, and even then the music that is playing is hardly profound or even noteworthy. The whole "let's play loud distorted music and then scream underneath it" theme is repeated over and over again and it's silly to suggest that such a gimmick is worth filling up an album with, or that it's worth hearing more than once.

I've heard it said by several friends and bloggers that Fuck Buttons is just messing with us, making an album that is purposefully bad just to see who will fall for their ruse. I don't buy that at all. I think Fuck Buttons made Street Horrrsing as a serious output for their music. Unfortunately, the band misses the mark on so many levels that it's hard to take someone who rants and raves about the album seriously. It's too simple to be experimental, too melodic to be noise rock, and not melodic enough to be considered anything else but amateur. If the band was reaching for something wholly unique, something indefinable, they have actually achieved that goal. Unfortunately, if they were going for something good, they have a way to go. Street Horrrsing lies somewhere between a bad Lumines Soundtrack and skipping record. Both might be welcome changes after enduring this unfortunate album.

Key Tracks:
1. "Sweet Love for Planet Earth"
2. "Ribs Out"

2 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, March 24, 2008

myspace musc monday: Springfactory

Now that I am finally able to listen to music on myspace, it's time that I profile a band that I meant to do weeks ago. Sorry it took so long, guys.


Genre: Powerpop
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Band Members: Lina Cullemark, Peter Gunnarson, Daniel "Våldet" Holmström, Magnus Svedjebratt, and Mikael Hall
Influences: Music and people and hot stuff.

The Short of It: A lo-fi pop band with hints of greatness.

"It's a Relief to Give Up" - A pretty simple song without anything that really stands out. The guitars, coupled with Lina's vocals give off a very early-No Doubt vibe.

"No More" - A delightfully playful tune that features all sorts of instrumentation, including a trumpet and a skittery child's piano. Lina's vocals are spot on, and she is backed up by some wonderful harmonies. Definitely one to check out.

"Peggy Pear" - It's got a very Of Montreal-ish composition, complete with an electronic stutter throughout. There's also this sound that reminds me of a sound that plays when you lose a life on Super Mario World. The song is an absolute blast to listen to and really portrays a band that knows what they're doing in the studio.

"Back of your Bike" - Another carefree tune about a 4am bike ride. The band stays away from complicated arrangements and opts instead to just have fun with it without being overpowering. Not the best song on the page, but definitely not the worst.

The Long of It: Lina Cullemark's vocals are nothing to write home about, but her voice is still relatively charming. The band carries a distinctly lo-fi sound over all the tracks on their myspace page, but songs like "No More" (by far the best track on the page) show that the band is definitely destined for more than tinny garage recordings. I totally enjoy the fact that the music is as playful and carefree as it is, and I look forward to hearing more from the band soon. I may even resort to buying one of their CDs. I haven't decided yet, but you should definitely check them out.

Springfactory's myspace Page
Official Site

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Wrens: "The Meadowlands"

There are certain albums or artists that cannot escape their backstories. Take, for example, the ever-elusive Jandek, who has released dozens of albums through the mail from a random Houston address and has only performed a handful of times in his career. Then there's M.I.A., whose father and mother are almost given more importance than the music she creates. In fact, more often than not, these stories sensationalize the artist, making their mediocre or downright awful music seem more artistic or important. The Wrens' 2003 album is one of those albums whose story has to be told. Fortunately, the album is also one that absolutely must be heard!

Forming in the late 1980s and releasing their first two albums via Grass Records, The Wrens were an indie band on the outskirts. They had a moderate following, but nothing too outstanding. After their 1996 release, Secaucus, Grass Records came under new leadership with a new vision of mass appeal, and even greater profits. The Wrens, whose raw underground rock sound didn't conform to the label's grand visions, refused to change their sound and were eventually left without a label. Grass Records soon became Wind-Up Records, home to huge successes like Creed, Finger Eleven, and Evanescence. The Wrens went silent. Without a record label, work on their next album went by slowly. Very slowly. By 2003 most of their small fanbase had moved on, but it was in this year, 7 years after their most recent release, that The Wrens returned with The Meadowlands; a masterpiece of indie and alternative rock.

The story is inspiring to say the least, but it is not the whole reason for appeal. The music contained on this album is absolutely breathtaking! Every track, every second is filled with memories of hope, regret, pain, and beauty. Songs range from heartbreaking ballads like "She Sends Kisses," - one of my absolute favorite songs, ever - to the uptempo, yet depressing thoughts on the process of making music ("This Boy is Exhausted"). Every song feels raw and unpolished, yet I can't find a single thing worth changing on the entire album. It is a testament to the 4 years of work that went into The Meadowlands.

The band's lyrics are often pretty disjointed fragments that you have to put together yourself. It's as if you're given a puzzle that's missing some pieces and it's your job to imagine what goes in the empty spaces. There are songs about breakups that you can't shake, feeling trapped in your own life, silly sexual encounters, and pointless relationships. The remarkable thing about every one of them is the amount of musicianship that goes into it all. Each song maintains a certain amount of sing-along-ability, with absolutely infectious vocal melodies. Some less so than others, sure, but everything here is worth listening to, worth making a big deal about.

I have been purposely vague in my review of The Meadowlands (yes, it is one of my worst), as I don't find it to be an album that one could not accurately portray the greatness of through words. My purpose in writing this review, then, is not to paint you a clear picture of what the album is all about, but rather to pique your interest and encourage you to listen for yourself. Unlike many, perhaps all of the albums that we've chosen to feature in our Top 25 Alternative Rock Albums list, The Meadowlands has absolutely no sentimental value to me. I first heard this album in its entirety just over two years ago, and there are no personal anecdotes or memories that accompany each listen. It is just an incredibly solid album that will endure beyond the music of the artists that Wind-Up Records kicked The Wrens to the curb for, and beyond most everything else made in the last decade or so. That's not too bad for a little band that no one believed in. And while the story of how The Meadowlands came to be may be a nice one to tell every now and then, it pales in comparison to the stories that the band tells through their music.

Key Tracks:
1. "She Sends Kisses"
2. "This Boy Exhausted"
3. "Thirteen Grand"
4. "Boys, You Won't"
5. "13 Months, In 6 Minutes"

10 out of 10 Stars

Buy from Insound | Buy from Amazon

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Top 5 Alternative Rock Albums (Albums 10-6)

We've made it to the Top 10! In case you're just joining us, here are some links to get you caught up.

Albums 25-21
Albums 20-16
Albums 15-11

#10 - Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
Cale says: "Kid A was probably the first big release of the internet age in music. As such, it's often remembered as one of the first albums that absolutely everybody downloaded - song by song, from Napster. Good times! Personally, I remember the album for other reasons: dark, late night road trips, relaxing in bed, making a fool out of myself at some random stoplight in front of perplexed onlookers. Kid A is a brilliant album, and my personal favorite by Radiohead. It definitely deserves a spot on this list!

#9 - Stone Temple Pilots: Purple (1994)
Erin says: "Purple was one of the first alternative albums that I bought, but definitely one of the best. They had several hits from this album and it's well deserving of its place in the top 25. My only complaint is that their following albums were not as awesome. "

Cale says: "There are a couple of really great songs on this one that just define alternative rock better than any other could. "Vaseline" and "Interstate Love Song" are obvious favorites that have never gotten old at all.

#8 - Beck: Odelay (1996)
Jill says: "I love it because it's different yet average and doesn't get to the spectacular point until the end when you're treated with "High 5 (Rock the Catskills)" and "Ramshackle.""

Erin says: " Beck, what can I say? You're Where It's At...the New Pollution...with a Devil's Haircut in my mind. OMG that's not only the cheesiest thing I've ever said, but also the most incoherent statement I've ever made. Somehow it seems appropriate. I love Beck and Odelay is fantastic! ...and did I mention...Beck's a musical and lyrical genius?"

#7 - Cake: Fashion Nugget (1996)
Erin says: "Who ever though that speaking most of your words to a background of music could be so popular? Well, Cake did, and their fans agreed. Fashion Nugget is not only one of the most fun albums to "speak" along with, but it's also super entertaining and a really great contribution to the entertainment industry."

Jill says: "I don't know what's better: "Stick Shifts and Safety Belts" with its lyrics that make me think of cars in a whole new way or "I Will Survive", a version of a classic anthem I like better than the original."

#6 - Fiona Apple: Tidal (1996)
Jill says: "Tidal is my essential break-up album. It has been since the first time I heard it. Soulful, sexy, angry, deep. It's good for the girl anger."

Erin says: "This chick can sing. True the music on this album is not as "trendy" as some of her other music, but it's all really real, well thought out, and well performed. She not only has an amazing voice, but her lyrics are to her music like syrup is to waffles. One without the other would seem a little strange, but both together leave you wanting more!"

The top 5 will be announced next Saturday. See you then!

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Top 5 Friday: 5 Movies with semi-decent Alternative Soundtracks

5. Clueless:

I love it when people don't realize that Clueless is basically Jane Austen's novel Emma. It's one of the few Alicia Silverstone movies I'll watch and the irony of the entire thing never fails to amuse me. Under that clueless, vapid exterior lies a smart, witty, sensitive Cher that makes a few lifestyle and spiritual changes at the end all orchestrated by a great soundtrack. You've got some Cracker, some Lightening Seeds, the Counting Crows, some Radiohead. There's lots of what I would consider some one-hit-wonder Alternative songs in here, which are the standout tracks for me: Jill Sobule's "Supermodel" and Luscious Jackson's "Here". It's a charming soundtrack, much in the way the movie is, and nice for when you want a little randomness mixed into your regular listening habits, whatever they may be.

4. The Wedding Singer:

To borrow a quote from Empire Records, shock me, shock me, shock me when I discovered the other day that someone turned The Wedding Singer into a Broadway musical. We all know of my love of musicals but my first question was "Why??" I had to rewind it to make sure it wasn't a joke and my question still stands, why?

It's your charming, typical love story of a Cater-Waiter and a really bad wedding band front man engaged to other people who meet and eventually realize that they were meant for each other. (Hello basic plot-line of chick flicks.) The Wedding Singer has a great soundtrack though...The Presidents of the United States of America, The Culture Club, New Order, The Thompson Twins...while it's not an entirely Alternative soundtrack, its great for those songs that are oddly peppy and make you want to sing along. (I mean really, who doesn't love singing along to Adam Sandler belting out "somebody kill me please..." while in the car with the windows down?) Standout tracks are "Everyday I Write the Book" by Elvis Costello and "China Girl" by David Bowie, but you really shouldn't miss or dismiss Ellen Dow plus the Sugarhill Gang doing "Rapper's Delight". No, it's not Alternative, but it's amusing and well worth the listen.

3. Empire Records:

"This music is the glue of the world Mark. It's what holds it all together. Without this, life would be meaningless."

In my house, all things stop and no opportunity is lost to watch Empire Records if it's on television. With commercials, without commercials, in doesn't matter. Empire Records is an important movie in my household and around here, you stop what you're doing to watch it, no matter when it started. And you also know what "Happy Rex Manning Day" means should it be said randomly. We've never been able to figure out why, exactly, we have such a great love for the movie, but we do. Independent music store, smart-alecky employees, Rex Manning, and an Atlantic City putting the store at risk of being sold to a large chain all make for a quirky good time. The music is fitting for the movie and it's got a sort of laid back, relaxed, almost sad Alternative vibe to it. Standout tracks include "Liar" by The Cranberries and "Ready, Steady, Go" by The Meices. What really makes me love this soundtrack, though is "Sugarhigh" by Coyote Shivers, on the soundtrack sans Renee Zellweger. It's jump-around-on-my-bed goodness that describes a mood I can often be found in.

2. Pretty In Pink:

Okay. Let's just get this out of the way: did anyone really buy into the idea that James Spader and Andrew McCarthy were young enough to be high school boys? Molly Ringwald and John Cryer were a bit more believable in their roles as Andy and Ducky, but really. James Spader as a high school senior? Even in 1986 he looks so...old. Like 2 packs a day old, but I digress.

I admit it Pretty In Pink isn't the greatest movie ever. It didn't really stand the test of time, as it were, for me. I loved it when I was in high school because Andy was just so cool and I desperately wanted to distance myself from the real life Steffs and Blanes that I knew. And she wore a lot of pink, which really, is never an issue for me. What did stand the test of time, though, is the soundtrack. Made up of songs that I loved then and still love now. If I drop off "If You Leave" by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, which I loathe, it's probably my most favorite movie soundtrack ever. It uses the less popular "Shell Shock" by New Order and "Pretty In Pink" by The Psychedelic Furs is still an Alternative standard for me. There's Suzanne Vega, there's Belious Some, there's Echo and the Bunnymen creating an atmosphere of love, longing, and the awkwardness of not managing to fit in anywhere, even with those that are your own "kind." The soundtrack ends with probably the saddest Alternative song ever, "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" by The simple. So heartbreaking. Exactly perfect for the movie and exactly perfect for pretty much everyones lives.

I can do without seeing Pretty In Pink anymore, but I'll never give up the soundtrack.

1. Cruel Intentions:

Oh, how I love Cruel Intentions. Everyone always remembers it for it's famous in the park kissing scene, but it's really the dramatic, sad event towards that always gets me. It's dark, it's amusing in it's own way, it's explicit verging on socially unacceptable, it's unexpected, it's sexy. It's evil. It's got a perfect soundtrack.

This is one of those soundtracks that seemed to be tailor made for the movie in every way. The songs picked were appropriate for the scenes they played in, meaning plot and music manage to go hand in hand. The Counting Crows "Colorblind" manages to capture the sad trek Ryan Phillippe makes and "Bittersweet Symphony" from The Verve brings you out of the emotional tension the movie pretty much puts you through. It's a soundtrack that I think best sums up the emotional parts to movie, the Alternative genre's got a mix of (musical) acts that talk about love and sex and obsession and the darkness that is sometimes life. If those are the main themes to Alternative music, then I don't know what is. There's nothing upbeat about this soundtrack, not really, not even the peppiest of songs manage to cast a happy light to the whole thing.

Standout tracks, even though they all standout in their own ways, must not be missed: "Every Me, Every You" by Placebo and "Comin' Up From Behind" by Marcy Playground, which is so, so much superior to their "Sex and Candy" single. As far as Alternative soundtracks go, you absolutely cannot go wrong with the Cruel Intentions soundtrack.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Moods - Forgotten

Coming up towards the end of our salute to Alternative Rock, I flip idly through the records I keep of every MP3, cd, and vinyl album I have. Thousands upon thousands of listings, in alphabetical order of course, serve to remind me of something: there's a lot of forgotten music in the Alternative genre.

They come to me in snippets sometimes, these songs that I always catch the tail end of while flipping radio channels or when I catch "Pretty In Pink" on some forgotten cable channel. I always had much love for Iona and could never buy into the idea that James Spader was a high school boy, but the soundtrack always made up for that. These forgotten Alternative songs pop up while I'm watching those "teen dramas" I sometimes favor. There's Joan telling Adam she's not crazy even though she sees (and talks to) God on Joan of Arcadia while The Flaming Lips play in the background and Grant Lee Phillips popping up at least 4 times a season on the Gilmore Girls. It's apparently hip and very retro to use Alternative Music in shows like that and I when I hear them, I always say to myself "I totally forgot about that song."

My problem is I never remember to seek them out and give them another listen. Not today, though. I've been keeping a list this entire month of songs I've forgotten but wanted to give a listen to again. Some of them I still love, like The Cardigan's "My Favorite Game" and "Closing Time" by Semisonic. Some of them I wish I'd never heard, like "Dead Man's Party" by Oingo Boingo and "Laid" by James. People forget that Alternative Rock covers so, so much musically and to overlook them is almost criminal. Just because you hear it on a Soft Rock station doesn't mean it's Pop, not every time.

I'm just waiting for the day when it's official that these songs are considered "Oldies" and take the place of Elvis Presley and The Byrds on Oldies stations across the country.

There's a lot of greatness out there and I'm confident I'll rediscover it as time marches on. Hopefully, this play list will inspire you to seek out those songs you've forgotten and give them a whirl to see if they do stand the test of time...

Forgotten, as defined by Websters:

1. to cease or fail to remember; be unable to recall
2. to omit or neglect unintentionally
3. to leave behind unintentionally; neglect to take
4. to omit mentioning; leave unnoticed
5. to fail to think of; take no note of
6. to neglect willfully; disregard or slight

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 63

So after my first two video choices had "Embed disabled by request" (damn you Universal Music Group!), I decided to pick this one.  Not because it's particularly memorable or anything, but just because I like the song and the whole retro vibe going on.  Hell, if it weren't for Scott Weiland's stupid dance moves, I'd probably watch it more often.  But I don't, and hopefully you don't either.

"Big Bang Baby" by Stone Temple Pilots, from the album Tiny Music.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

She & Him: "Volume One"

Like most people, the first time that I had my suspicions about actress Zooey Deschanel being a talented vocalist came from that scene in Elf where she sings in the shower as Will Ferrell's character listens. Volume One is not a collection of Christmas Carrols, and Will Ferrell is not the "Him" mentioned in the band - that title goes to the somewhat reputable, M. Ward. Unsurprisingly, the "Him" is pretty deemphasized on the album, letting Zooey shine as a vocalist and a songwriter. The result is a surprisingly solid, moderately impressive debut from a woman that proves that she's more than just a dumb crossover act.

Most of Volume One is filled with songs that throwback to classic pop and country sounds, and all of them are at least partially written by Deschanel, herself. "I Thought I Saw Your Face Today" just makes me think of Zooey singing this song in a long dress through one of those old-timey radio microphones. Sweeping strings and subtle guitars emphasize the right moments, and carefree whistles really add a sense of playfulness that make the song feel more authentic. "Change Is Hard" conveys more of a classic country picture, like the obligatory scene in every music biopic where the artist plays in a radio studio over the air for the first time as stunned personnel look on in awe. Deschanel's lyrics are often a bit simplistic, but Ward, as producer, is able to utilize them in ways that mask their mediocrity.

That's never more apparent than on the album's standout track "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" Zooey sings, "Why do you let me stay here all by myself? Why don't you come and play here? I'm just sitting on the shelf." First off, rhyming "self" with "shelf" is one of the easiest and most-overused schemes in songwriting. It rarely makes any sense, as is the case here. I mean, who actually sits on a shelf? Small gripe, I know, but the point is that the lyric - which is pretty pivotal in the song - is barely a bother because the song itself is so fun and captivating. Ward's production, filled with dancing pianos, wonderfully-used guitars, and some of the best background vocals I've heard in ages, manages to wipe away any blemish that Zooey might have brought on herself.

But Volume One is never an album that tries to be overly complicated or impressive. As a side project for both artists, it more or less feels like they just set out to had fun. That feeling is conveyed pretty often too. Album opener, "Sentimental Heart" is just begging for you to add your own vocals, and "I Was Made For You" doesn't even come close to being a meaningful or memorable song. It's simply a way for the two musicians to have fun. Fans of Ward's vocal work may be a bit disappointed with the album, as this is really Zooey's chance to shine, but there are a few moments here and there (like on "You Really Gotta Hold On Me") where he peeks his head above the water and makes his presence clearly known.

Sadly, as I hinted above, Zooey's first musical endeavor is not near as quirky or interesting as the characters she often plays in the movies. There seems to be this trend in the indie music world for female musicians to pay tribute to , or imitate the classic artists who influenced them. Like Jenny Lewis' debut solo LP, Volume One isn't going to sound very original or inspired and as a result it isn't all that memorable either. Let's be honest, folks are going to pick up this album because it's Zooey Deschanel and they may even give it some solid spins for a few weeks, but it's lack of originality might just serve as it's downfall. Still, Zooey's voice is just as charming as ever, and her personality manages to seep its way into every song on Volume One. That alone is enough reason for me to give it a solid recommendation. Needless to say, if you found yourself falling in love with that scene in Elf, She & Him might just be worth checking out.

Key Tracks:
1. "Sentimental Heart"
2. "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"
3. "This Is Not a Test"
4. "I Thought I Saw Your Face Today"
5. "Black Hole"

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Monday, March 17, 2008

myspace music....filler?

Remember a few weeks ago when myspace music monday was cancelled due to technical difficulties?  Well, it's back!

Here's the deal.  About a month or so ago, my once-top o' the line PC went kaput so I went out and had a few drinks to console myself.  The next day, I woke up at some ungodly hour with a pounding headache and a 68 lbs. noggin.  I roll over to my right, and what do I find sitting next to me but a brand new MacBook?  Talk about awkward!

After a long talk we decided to give our relationship a real shot!  I started using it for work purposes and for the purposes of this blog.  But then something went sour (no not that!).  Try as hard as I might, I have been relatively unsuccessful in trying to get any music player on a myspace page to play.  Last week I got SumKid's player going only after about 45 minutes of refreshing the page.  Needless to say, such a task is not only annoying, but downright rude!  I mean, I could've just kicked the MacBook out and never called it, but I tried to make things work.  This is how it repays me?

So the point of this whole story is this.  I had a myspace music monday planned for today (you can ask my other writers to verify...there's a barely-written entry that I didn't publish), but for some damned reason I cannot get music to play on myspace.  I've ordered a copy of Windows XP that should be in by the end of the week, and hopefully I'll be able to work things better from there.

"Hi, I'm a Mac."

"And I'm a PC."
"I suck at myspace."
"I suck at being reliable and not hogging resources."
"Cale has huge problems with me once a week when it's most inconvenient for him."
"Cale was just fine with me until I **** him in the *****."

Hey, in the meantime, if you have any suggestions for future myspace bands that I should profile, just leave a comment below.  I love you, reader.  Goodnight.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cake: Fashion Nugget

So here we meet for yet another Alternative Retro Review, and this week, the musical pioneer is the famous "talk rock" band, Cake. Fashion Nugget, released in 1996, was truly one of the first of it's kind. True there had been other bands who'd done the same thing a decade before, but none had tapped into this genre or attained quite the success as Cake. With their hit, "The Distance", this album spread like wildfire. I know within my little high school freshman click of 5, we each had a copy (dumb I know, but I like to throw a touch of personals into everything I write). It was the album to have. It was trendy to adults and teens alike and much different than other bands out there. So, without further ado, please embark with me on the journey known as Fashion Nugget.

The album begins with a snazzy and jazzy track called "Frank Sinatra". It's a fun one, with quirky lyrics and lots of personality, a characteristic very common with many of Cake's songs. There's also a good use of horns in this song, which give it that jazzier element. Don't let the title fool you though... I've never found this song to be remotely about Frank other than the brief mention of the late singer's name performing, "Stormy Weather". I think it's purely one of the random things that cake chose to do. It's a great song that is one of my favorites on the album. "The Distance" speaks for itself. Most people have heard the song at one point or another and some of you, like me, have probably played it endlessly upon opening your copy of Fashion Nugget. It's a funky track that seems to be about "being in a race", though things are not always what they seem (as Cale noted in his Sia Concert Review, about the song Lentil). This song is all "talk rock" except for the background vocals, which is so cool to me. I've listened to, and loved "The Distance" so much, I'd almost forgotten, that lead singer John McCrae never sings a single note in the entire song. Crazy...

"Friend is a Four Letter Word" is a slower track that's a little more solemn, but still very memorable and fun to sing to. In fact, I hadn't heard this album in probably 2 years, but when I put it in the other day and sang along with every word to this song, it was as if I'd listened to it every day. The chorus is comprised of the lyrics, "To me, coming from you, friend is a four letter word. 'End' is the only part of the word that I heard, call me morbid or absurd, but to me, coming from you, friend is a four letter word." Nope, I don't know what it means, but I like singin' it. By this point in this album, you know that the trumpet is not only a one song feature, but it's practically an additional band member, it's used so often. It's also a great addition to this song. "Open Book" is another one of my favorite songs on the album, because it's quite similar to going the distance, as far as musical sound. There's no "talking" in this song, but the overall musical feel is identical. It's got similar guitar effects, percussion, and goofy lyrics. My favorite part of this song is during the chorus, when McCrae says, "You may think she's an open book, but you don't know which page to turn to, do you, do you, do you?" It may not read like much, but when executed, it's a nice effect. There's also some abrupt dissonance in the chorus, which I find super cool. Did I mention that the beginning of the song almost makes me feel like a high hippie?

"Daria" is an interesting song, but not one of my favorites. It's got some good things working for it, like good lyrics, some new percussion, and a lot of changes in general sound throughout the song. I just feel like, overall, they have more entertaining tracks on Fashion Nugget than "Daria". However, "Race Car Ya-Yas" is a fantastic song on this album, probably the best if you're into Cake's talk rock feel. The entire song, a 1:21, is "The land of race car ya-yas. The land where you can't change lanes. The land where large, fuzzy dice, still hang proudly, like testicles from rear view mirrors". Just because this song is spoken, don't feel like it's identical to "The Distance". The trumpet has some crazy sounding solos, the guitar has a very different sound to it, and the percussion is not similar at all. Not to mention, this song is completely hysterical, which adds to the entertainment factor. "I Will Survive" is of course, a cover, but it's a well done cover. It follows the same path as the original, just with McCrae's vocals and the addition of, "I should've changed my f&@#in' lock". Other than that, it's a well done cover with a good guitar solo right in the middle...oh and you won't be ashamed of singing this one out loud.

"Stickshifts and Safetybelts" has a country feel to it because of the guitar melody and peppy percussion, but it's most definitely entertaining. It's a cute little track about how the driver of the car feels like stickshifts and safetybelts get in the way of his "baby" sitting next to him when he's driving. It's another one that I really like a lot on this album. "Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps" is a little bit overrated in my opinion. The trumpet is excellent in this song, but I think the lyrics are a little on the dull side. Musically, except for the trumpet, it's not too entertaining. You can do better on this album. I feel exactly the same way about "It's Coming Down", except for in this song, I think the background vocals are great. If the song was simply background vocals, I'd love it, otherwise, see the previous song's description and omit "trumpet".

...and we're back to Cake's talk rock again with "Nugget". This song is also funny, but slightly awkward to listen to in front of the parents and/or preachers. Every other word in this song is f@$#...and it's not subtle. I'm not sure what this song is about though, because the lyrics in this one are way random. If you don't mind the overly used word f@$# in this song, it's actually pretty entertaining and the music itself is good too. "She'll Come Back to Me" is another song with a country-flair feel. In fact, with it's sad, yet hopeful lyrics, I think that if this song had a different vocalist, you might hear it in a country bar. This song also makes good use of the trumpet in a few spots, and though it's a sad song, the music remains fairly light. The steel guitar just makes me want to have a beer or something... "Italian Leather Sofa" is a cheerful song that I generally find myself listening to rather than singing along with. My complaint about this song is that it's too freakin' long for them. All of their other songs average 2-3 minutes, but this one is almost 6 minutes long. I like the song enough, but not for 6 minutes. Musically, it's not bad though. "Sad Songs and Waltzes" is a slow track that is instrumentally sparse and it seems like a strange way to end their generally upbeat album. However, it's a good one with nice lyrics and some good harmonies.

Fashion Nugget was a success for Cake and it still remains one of my favorite Alternative Rock albums of the 90's. It was just so unique back then, and now, over 10 years later, it's still just as unique. I feel like if you didn't own this album in the 90's you missed out, and if you still don't own it, you should definitely add it to your collection.

Key Tracks:
1. Frank Sinatra
2. The Distance
3. Open Book
4. Race Car Ya-Yas
5. Stickshifts and Safetybelts

7 out of 10 stars

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Top 25 Alternative Rock Albums (Albums 15-11)

#15 - The Cure: Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)
Jill says: "Quite simply, the lyrics of track 16, "A Thousand Hours": 'A thousand wasted hours a day/Just to feel my heart for a second/A thousand hours just thrown away/Just to feel my heart for a second...'"

#14 - New Order: Substance (1987)
Jill says: "I could write volumes about New Order. I could write a novel about this album. I have every single New Order and Joy Division album there is to have. I have it on cd, I have it on vinyl, I have it on rare, very expensive bootleg vinyle. I paid an exorbiant amount to see them live. It's dark, it's deep, it's dirty, it's clever in it's hidden messages. I am not a "Blue Monday" and "Bizarre Love Triangle" kind of girl. To find me on that album, you have to look elsewhere: "Everything's Gone Green", "Thieves Like Us", "Procession", "1963", and the song that ranks 2nd on my list of all time favorite songs, "Perfect Kiss"."

#13 - The Flaming Lips: At War With the Mystics (2006)

Cale says: "The Flaming Lips have a career that spans the life and death of several genres. 80s metal, hair bands, new wave, grunge rock; the list goes on and on. Through it all, the band has remained true to their psychedelic rock roots while remaining as innovative and entertaining as ever. They experienced sort of a rebirth in the late 1990s and since then have created some of their strongest albums ever. In my opinion, it is their most recent album, At War With the Mystics, that tops them all! Every second of this album is breathtaking, filled with such dense compositions that you're bound to catch new things you've never heard before with almost every listen! It is an amazing achievement for any band, much less a band that's been around for over two decades.

#12 - Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair (1985)
Jill says: "Honestly, don't dismiss Tears for Fears the way I did for so long. "Shout" is the most recognizable but not the best track. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is fantastic but it's "Head Over Heels/Broken" that is the true gem. It's a live track but that doesn't take away from the simple genius of it. I used to not like Tears for Fears, but the older I get, the more I realize they are truly quiet a talented pair."

Cale says: "I don't think there has ever been an album cover that screams "Alternative Rock!" more than this one. And who could argue with the fact that "Shout" is the most rockin' song this side of Metallica? Only a fool, friends. Only a fool."

#11 - Depeche Mode: Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993)
Jill says: "It is one of the few albums I will listen to from beginning to end without skipping over anything. "Walking In My Shoes" is by far my favorite, "In Your Room" is so sexy it makes me blush, and "Higher Love" just makes me want to start the entire thing over again."

Erin says: "Depeche Mode never gets old and neither does Songs of Faith. I'm pretty sure that I'll be singing these songs when I'm well into my twilight years, but hey, they're that good."

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Top 5 Alternative Hits by One Hit Wonders

So, in lieu of the missed Retro Review last week, Cale and I agreed that I would take charge of Top 5 Friday so that I could get over an illness and grace you with my opinions, yet again. Therefore, this week, as the headline states, it's my favorite alternative hits by one hit wonders. While I'm a huge fan of successful artists who produce multitudes of life altering albums , I must also pay homage to those who have fallen. Thus I present you with the magic...please behold.

5. Nine Days - "Absolutely (The Story of a Girl)"
I know what you're thinking...and you're right. It is a bit of the lighter side of alternative rock. A little more pop and a little less, "with the lights out it's less dangerous". I get that. However, the lighter side is exactly why I love this song. I can't tell you the number of times it has popped into my head and stayed there for days...ironic, huh? It's a great piece that tells about the solemness of this girl that lead singer, John Hampson, is truly fond of, and even as he lays out all her "imperfections", he claims to "absolutely love her when she smiles". "Absolutely (The Story of a Girl)" is a happy song that takes me back to fond memories of listening to and singing this song in my first car. It's cheesy, I know, but memories often play a huge part in musical selections and is the reason for this song being brought to the forefront of my mind. BTW, in case you're planning on checking, Wikipedia will list them as having 2 hits. "Absolutely (The Story of a Girl)" and some track called "If I Am"... Let's be honest, has anyone ever really heard it, and more importantly, would you remember it?

4. Spacehog - "In the Meantime"
I gotta be frank with you all... I know nothing of this band. Nada. What I do know is that "In the Meantime" is one of my absolute favorite songs ever. It's one where you may understand the lyrics as being one thing, while I'm hearing words that are completely different. It's a song where I've probably given it entirely new lyrics. However, lyrics aside, it's a great song for several reasons. The vocals are so unique that I feel if we'd ever heard more from Spacehog, it would've been easily identifiable. The song has great hooks, verses, chorus, bridge, ending...I mean, it has unbelievable structure. The ending is totally separate from this vocal/guitar driven song in that it scrapes away all other musical factors, save the piano, and plays what could almost sound like an adult lullaby. It's a beautiful melody that will always stand out in my mind as being a perfect ending to an amazing song. Seriously, if I could give "In the Meantime" a true rating, it would be an easy 10.

3. The Proclaimers - "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
I assume that when one thinks of Alternative Rock, the bands Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc. come to mind, but what about it's predecessors. Sure The Proclaimers (please don't confuse with The Pretenders) don't pop out as significant, or maybe even alternative rock, but you can't deny that "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)" didn't break the mold from other bands that were around in 1988. This song was so different from anything out there at that time and was so original, that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to honor the Scots. "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)" is a brilliantly talented, goofy song that was featured in the film Benny & Joon (why does that feel like it was 10,000 years ago?). The song is an upbeat and lighthearted display of complete devotion. The patterns of "when you do this, I'm gonna do this" make up the spirited song and make it easy to sing along with and easy to fall in love with. And let's face'll never forget the lines "and I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more" and the composed chorus of "duh duh duh duhs" that make this song worth remembering and/or hard to forget.

2. The Verve - "Bitter Sweet Symphony"
I do feel slightly guilty for listing The Verve in this category, because to be fair, I believe they've had several hits in the UK. However, if you glance up to the address bar on your screen, you'll notice we're not in Kansas anymore and being an American based musical opinions blog, I'm exercising my right to add them. I'll say this..."Bitter Sweet Symphony" is not only an awesome song, but the video is great too. I love to watch him plow through literally every person he passes down the street like they're not even there. Being that this is about the song, not the video, I'll move on. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was not even close to being an instant favorite of mine. In fact, it wasn't even until I heard Lucas Rossi perform it on "Rockstar Supernova" that I even appreciated it as a good song, much less a favorite of mine. However, when I heard it under a different voice, I realized what an intricate composition it is, both vocally and instrumentally. It has the ability to be vocally ornamented, which is exactly what Rossi did with it. Once I heard his version, I went back and reexamined my feelings for the original...I loved it. I listened with a fresh set of ears and it was as if I'd heard it for the first time. It's a beautifully written alternative rock song that makes you feel melancholy and malicious at the same time. If you're having doubts about appreciating "Bitter Sweet Symphony", I would encourage you to find a version of Rossi's and then reevaluate The Verve's masterpiece.

1. Tracy Bonham - "Mother Mother"
So while this is my fav, it's hard for me to lump Tracy into this category because I love more of her music than just this one song. A few of them even got air play, but it's "Mother Mother" that brings home the bacon. "Mother Mother" is a sarcastic tale of a girl and her phone conversation with her mother in which she makes small talk, asks some questions, and recalls some unexpected details. In the chorus, she sings/screams "I'm hungry, I'm dirty, I'm losing my mind, everything's fine". The song's use of guitars and strings, which come prior to the chorus, don't even set you up for when she goes berserk during the chorus. It's a great surprise! Bonham is a phenomenal vocalist and with a hit like this and a voice like hers, it's a travesty that she's being classified as a one hit wonder. She's truly masterful and "Mother Mother" proves it. This song is also one of the first tracks where I had ever heard a female vocalist scream, as it was very uncommon for women during that period in music. I remember loving how pissed off Bonham seemed, especially since I felt I could relate in all my teen angst. I always swore up and down that if I was in a band, I would cover this song, as have The Veronicas. "Rockstar Supernova" alum, Dilana even performed it on the show (though not by choice) and killed it (in a good way). It's a fabulous song that deserves every bit of recognition it gets and more. It is my hope that you will enjoy it along with me.

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