This video is reason alone to fall in love with this brand new New York band — Atomic Tom — who recorded their first album in an apartment-turned-music studio until the endeavor got shut down by the police for loudness. They finished their record, but then their instruments were stolen this month. Watch this video, and then tell me you wouldn’t have loved to have been on this subway . . .
My favorite song, when I was three, was called Shine On. I learned it in the children’s program in church. I really loved to sing it out, especially the line, “Shine on, shine on bright and clear!”
They must have noticed my passion because one day the music leader invited me to come to the front and sing it to all the kids. I was definitely up for the task. She carried me on her right hip with one arm supporting me (can you believe I remember this?). She held a microphone to my mouth with her other hand — although it’s possible I just imagined that microphone into a false memory — and I sang to everyone that they should definitely shine on.
To be truthful, I think I was singing to them that I, myself would continue to shine on.
Anyway, the Kooks have given me a modern, updated song to Shine On to. And my new song makes me feel at least as happy. Have a listen . . .
I have a new musical love, thanks to Izzy. He saw one of Josh Ritter’s cdâ€™s at Starbucks and got curious because it boasted NPRâ€™s recommendation. If NPR loves something, weâ€™re pretty likely to love it, too. Our tastes and NPRâ€™s tastes run similar that way.
So, with the recommendation of NPR giving us some hope, I put Josh Ritter into the search field of my Rhapsody app. It was immediate love for both Izzy and me. They say his style is Americana. Thatâ€™s a new genre term for me, but I get that his influence is folk, and after hearing him I think I understand the Americana label, especially after listening to this beautiful songâ€¦
The Temptation of Adam
If this was the Cold War we could keep each other warm
I said on the first occasion that I met Marie
We were crawling through the hatch that was the missile silo door
And I don’t think that she really thought that much of me
I never had to learn to love her like I learned to love the Bomb
She just came along and started to ignore me
But as we waited for the Big One
I started singing her my songs
And I think she started feeling something for me
We passed the time with crosswords that she thought to bring inside
What five letters spell “apocalypse” she asked me
I won her over saying “W.W.I.I.I.”
She smiled and we both knew that she’d misjudged me
(For the rest of the lyrics click here)
Girl In The War
. . . Is another story-telling folk song where Ritter pulls biblical characters into the story and works a lot of wordplay into the song. I wish I could say I fully understand it. I donâ€™t really get it. All I know is it’s beautiful.
Thereâ€™s one that takes me back to my earlier years. Ritter was a child of the 70â€™s like I was and this song â€” to me â€” sounds like the Partridge Family meets Pink Floyd. I bet you never thought a combination of those two bands was possible. I can only find live versions, so this recording isn’t as good as his studio version . . .
Change Of Time
But if you prefer the softer folksy style, hereâ€™s another really moving, beautiful one. It gives me chills. The old American patriotic drum beat rolls in partway through and then the music continues to build toward a higher and higher climax. Have a listenâ€¦
Israel and I discovered this indie band, Tammany Hall NYC, eight years ago in 2002 when HBO used Wait For You (a remix of their song, Wait For Jane) as a promotion piece. Since then THNYC has continued to score movie soundtracks and spots on popular television, like on the t.v. series, Scrubs. Why the band has not crawl its way out of music indie-land is a mystery to me.
Maybe the band hasnâ€™t found the right producer. Maybe they just donâ€™t have what it takes to get out in the front. Maybe they experimented with style too much in the beginning for people to get a handle on who they are. Whatever the reason, they are a hardly known band for all of their success. Pandora Radio doesnâ€™t have a clue of their existence and you can only find a few of their songs on YouTube.
Hereâ€™s the popular Scrubs version of Cindy, along with some of the lyrics:
you loved me with your eyes
you help me with your voice
You listen when my voice was void of sound
You touch me with your laugh
You show me to my smile, and you
You save me with your kiss before I drown
I love their acoustic sound, which is both soft and hard at the same time. Unlike many of the California bands Iâ€™ve talked about here, THNYC has cool-toned New England urban sound with the more introspective, intelligent, and symbolic lyrics you might expect from a group that comes from the well-educated northeast coast.
Hereâ€™s what Iâ€™m talking about…below are lyrics from the last part of Back In the Bottle. This is a serious take-your-breath-away song for me, with the climax and the following lyrics all crashing together at the same time. Go ahead and play the video just underneath themâ€¦
back in the bottle again.
what the f**k’s out there? like i care. what am i needing?
why am i leading myself on this game of stalemate solitaire?
can’t start again. can’t land a 10.
must be “spade” cause my heart is beaten, captain,
but you play the cards you’re played.
years have passed. with each year, i’m wearing down the glass.
if my ship sails, let the breezes blow me back to better jails.
there must be another sea, but that’s a mental mutiny.
and that’s not me. that’s not me,
but the glass is cracked and i think i’m going down.
it’s not me. it’s not me
to wash away the world that’s whirling round.
i can’t breathe anymore.
I canâ€™t stop sharing their songs. If there were more of my favorites available Iâ€™d post them, too. Instead I’ll stop at three. The next song, Someone, is one Israel Israel likes to play for me on the guitar while I attempt at singing it. (Note: one explicit lyric is slightly obvious in this one. Just wanted to let you know ahead of time if you donâ€™t want it reaching the ears of your little kiddies).
and some may run. and some know fear.
and some wade in a while and let the murky waters clear.
and some just smile.
someone makes love. love makes someone.
someone gives love. someone takes none.
and some may pass. and some may hold.
and some grow ageless while their body’s growing old.
and they just smile. they just smile.
On Valentineâ€™s Day my guy got all sweet on me and started a Love Songs station on Pandora for the drive to our Ethiopian vegan dinner at Cafe Lalibela. I swooned at the first song by Journey, until I accidentally hit the skip button — a fatal move for that station because the songs that followed were of the abhorrently cheesy Boyz II Men style. I couldnâ€™t handle that.
Here are a handful of the non-cheesy and non-traditional love songs that I would want on my romantic play list:
I Will Follow You Into The Dark
by Death Cab For Cutie
Let’s start with a buck-the-system, non-traditional, but very sweet song with a beautiful acoustic beginning…
* * *
What happens when love outrun its initial fascination phase? The reality — the reality of life and the reality of the imperfect partners — is digging its claws into the relationship that Guster sings about In Careful. The singer reaches for his imperfect, struggling lover with his stable, secure, and accepting love, hoping to bring her “Back where I can find you, to crawl inside you…”
* * *
by Regina Spektor
I know you know the next song, but how can I leave it off the list when it so successfully communicates the drama and the passion of every unacknowledged love that has to end before its time?
* * *
Hard To Concentrate
by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sweet tastes sweeter when you don’t expect it. Here’s a band of musicians who are reckless and wild but when one of them is ready to settle down and start a family with his girl, the Chili Peppers can be very, very sweet…
* * *
by Red Hot Chili Peppers
As far as I’ve read, Anthony Kiedis has never divulged the exact meaning for and the story behind this song, but I think sometimes the mystery behind the sorrow is better than knowing the story…
Israel and I stood in front of the stage at the Marquee Theater waiting for Matisyahu to come out and play. We still had the opening band to endure and the two teens near us gave fair warning. “Matishyahu is notorious for having really bad opening bands,” they said.
My first impression when Trevor Hall walked onto the stage seemed a confirmation. His appearance lacks color contrast: his very fair skin is not offset by his pale blond hair. Nor was it highlighted by the non-color of his knit reggae headband, a tan that blended right into his hair. I did love the dreads shooting out of that headband and Trevor’s bare feet, but so far, his appearance wasn’t making a huge impression. We were all just excited for Matisyahu to come out.
And then the guy started playing his guitar and singing. And dancing around on his bare feet. And being really joyful as he shared his music. Okay, here’s the thing: it’s totally not cool to describe a musician as joyful. But this dude is the most joyful musician I’ve ever been lucky enough to watch. He makes you glad you’re alive. I love his music. But even more than that, I love to watch him make it.
As Trevor played, everyone in the crowd around us exchanged a bunch of “Who is this guy?” looks. We all loved him — the screams from the audience made it clear it wasn’t just Israel and me who would have paid the same ticket price just for the opening act. That’s why we’re going to see him again in a couple of weeks. He’s coming to The Compound Grill in Phoenix on March 6th.
With so many bands and musicians on the radio all sounding the same, I love the ones who infuse their own unique personality into their music. Trevor definitely has his own unique characteristics — Listen in the video above for the way he starts many lines and notes with this crazy sort of emotional squeak. Squeak? That’s an awful word for what he does but it’s the most accurate description I can think of. I love Trevor’s “squeaking.” Or maybe he’s squawking…? You tell me.
Anyone in Phoenix want to join us at The Compound Grill to watch Trevor? Tickets are only $10 (or $12 at the door).
Need to hear more first? Watch this video about my favorite of his songs, a collaboration with Matisyahu…
I won’t lie. It’s been torture for me to blog three different Music Monday posts without referring to my musical soul-mates, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I could devote every single Monday to sharing the aspects of their music that throw me to the sky and send me flying. But I won’t. Promise.
Here’s the thing. You’ve got these four guys who each play their parts in ways beyond what most band members do. Yet they’ve found this symbiotic place with each other where their separate musical strands, all bold and outrageous, braid together into a beautiful whole.
Co-dependency Instead of Competition
You can probably point to the Chili Peppers‘ unusual writing style as one of the reasons for the unity of such intricate musical parts. To write music, the band usually jams together until they slide into something that’s working. Then Anthony, the leading vocalist and lyric writer, will sit to the side to find meaning and lyrics that work with the music while the rest of the band continues to flesh the piece out. They have a communal song-writing method while other bands usually spend more time writing their parts individually.
Especially In Michigan
The song below is the kind of music that pulls you away from your everyday and makes you feel as if the universe is swimming around you. So if you can, plug into some good speakers (or headphones) and let it fill the room. Below I share some of the reasons the musical quality of this band is so unique . . .
You really should listen to the Chili Peppers songs a number of times, with an ear for the different parts if you want hear all the layers. After getting the overall feel of the song, as well as Anthony’s vocals with all his genuine and uninhibited personality, I like to listen with a focus on individual parts . . .
- To take in John Frusciante’s legendary lead guitar. He’s up there with Jimi Hendrix in terms of skill and passion, in my opinion.
- To put your ear to Flea’s bass line. He does more than just provide an underlying anchor to the harmonies and the beat. Flea has often been called one of the world’s greatest bassists.
- To understand Anthony’s brilliant and poetic lyrics.
The Chili Peppers’ intricacy is the only reason I’m able to listen to this band so often and not get tired of them like I do with other bands. Every listen can be a new experience, depending on what I decide to focus on. Below are a few of the things that amaze me about the song above . . .
John Frusciante’s Guitar
During a recent listen to John’s guitar in this song, I realized he plays differently for each set of verses and each run with the chorus. Seriously — who does that? Just John. In most music you get a slight change or an additional layer to build toward a climax. But in this song, John gave each round of verse and chorus its own sound. That’s love for the music, right there.
I should mention, the guitar solo is actually Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from The Mars Volta.
Anthony Kiedis’s Lyrics
Anthony’s lyrics are deeply personal and autobiographical, often symbolic, and usually infused with multiple meanings. Especially in Michigan may not be as much about the state as it is about Anthony’s sanctuary there from his drug addiction. He grew up with his mother in Michigan until he went to live with his Dad in L.A. at age eleven. His dad immediately introduced the young Anthony to drugs and a crazy wild life. Eventually he stopped using but Michigan is where Anthony returned a number of times to the care of his mother and her rural home in order to detox and come clean again after some bad relapses.
Knowing this, the line means much . . . “Out on the farm we’ll be swimming with the mother duck,” as well as, “Land is full of medicine, I find it when I’m slipping in . . . into Michigan.”
Residents from Michigan will identify with the many references that are particular to the culture and state of Michigan. The oz-like “lions and tigers” most likely came to Anthony because of the Detroit Lions football and the Detroit Tigers baseball teams.
Michigan is shaped like a mittened hand and residents commonly point to a spot on their hand to identify approximately where in the state their hometown is on the mitten. Anthony refers to the mitten and its many lakes when he sings of “a mitten full of fishermen,” and how they’ll be “swimming with the mother duck, deep in the mitten.”
This kind of back-story helps you understand why the Chili Peppers music always feels so intensely soulful, passionate, and human.
Since it’s a little harder to hear Flea’s bass in the song above, I have to share another one with you. I could (and eventually will) write an entire post pointing out the insanely unique musical qualities of this song, Charlie. But for now, please take a little time to enjoy Flea’s bass line, most prominent in the intro and outro, but surfacing throughout, as well . . .
Flea is known for his funk-style slapping technique, which he’s toned down over the years for music with the Chili Peppers in order to not pull too much attention from the other parts. You can watch him play a bass solo in the video below. Pay attention to his hands . . .
In case you mistook my Jack Johnson rant for a dislike of mellow music, I thought I’d share a great band that is mostly chill but, unlike Jack, has good dynamics. Dynamics in music = variation in volume. Jack starts and stops every song at the same level and doesn’t vary from that level through the entire piece (snore). I can’t stand music like that.
Check out this song, Mellow Mood, by Slightly Stoopid with G-Love.
I love how their two guitars and their voices wrap around each other. They’re so talented that they got signed to a label while they were still in high school. I love the originality of the music and the personality that it expresses.
Here’s another one of my favorites, still on the overall mellow side but with more energy and a huge range of dynamics…
. . . Much love, much respect.
Let me step to the left before I plow face-first into my Pandora Radio complaint by stating that I LOVE Pandora Radio. LOVE. IT. Pandora has introduced me to hundreds of new bands to swoon over and reunited me with past lovers. As one of many parents who lose their musical way after college ends and child-rearing begins, I wandered lost in a ten-plus-year phase of no longer knowing where to find music I really love. Now days, Pandora provides me with a constant flow of new music based on other bands I tell it I love. Acquainting myself with bands is once again one of my favorite hobbies, just as it was in when I was in junior high and high school.
Now that my devoted love for Pandora Radio is on the table, let me side-step againâ€”this time to the rightâ€”for devoted fans of Jack Johnson. He may be a decent musician. I donâ€™t mean to offend all you ladies who love him. I might have actually liked him a little if it werenâ€™t for Pandoraâ€™s obsessive and bizarre man-crush on him, and its insistence that we all get dosed with Jack daily. I over-dosed on Jack soon after Pandora hit the internet.
Pandora Radio has a man-crush on Jack Johnson.
Either that or Jack is paying them a beautiful amount of money. Maybe Jack OWNS Pandora. Why my accusations of either a crush, a conspiracy, or under-the-table money-passing? If you plug almost any band or artist into Pandora, it will tell you that that band or artist shares qualities similar to Jack Johnson.
When I first began creating my own personalized stations on Pandora, I thought Jack Johnson was okay. There were a few songs I even enjoyed. That lasted about a few days when I realized Jack was invading my stations every few songs. I am a lover of new discoveries and repetition of the same music or style or sound will kill my interest and it will kill it fast. Jack began to get a lot of thumbs down on my new stations.
The more stations I created, the more I realized a pattern. Having created more than thirty different Pandora stations, I have only found a couple where Pandora didnâ€™t throw me a Jack-ditty by the third song. Seriously. All of the songs on a station are supposed to have similar musical characteristics to the original band you chose, but almost without fail Jack will be your song number three, no matter the music genre of your original band.
Not only that, but if you donâ€™t start giving Jack the good-old thumbs-down, heâ€™ll sprinkle your station with his non-dynamic and always-calm voice every handful of songs. I began complaining about this on twitter and got a quick response from Pandoraâ€™s twitter account. They told me that two thumbs-down will ban that artist from your station permanently, except for the songs youâ€™ve already given a thumbs-up, and unless the band is the one that initially created your station.
Great, I thought! There is a way to stop these regular buzz-kills! I was pretty sure Iâ€™d given Jack plenty of thumbs-downâ€™s already, but I have so many different stations, maybe they were spread around and somehow never happened twice on the same one. I began counting. And then I complained to Pandora on twitter when, after the fourth thumbs-down on my Sublime station, he popped in again, just a song or two later.
Maybe Pandoraâ€™s resident twitterer had her numbers wrong. Or maybe Pandora excused Jack from the thumbs-down rule because its man-crush is so tight, it cannot imagine anyone wouldnâ€™t love him the way it does. Whatever it was, eventually, after numerous thumbs-downâ€”maybe I downed every single song he ever releasedâ€”I got my stations to a happy point where Jackâ€™s pop-ins were relatively rare. I was a happy girlâ€¦until today.
Jack Came Back
All of a sudden this morning, Jack invaded my Sublime station four times during less than ninety minutes of listening. And yes, I was giving him the thumbs-down every time. The fourth Jack-intrusion happened with only one song after my third Jack-booting.
So whatâ€™s the deal, Pandora? Did you think my short reprieve from his music made me forget how much Jackâ€™s inability to change vocal levels bothers me? Did you think that your obsession with him escaped my memory during that short sweet period when he wasn’t invading all of my stations? Not this girl. I may be one of only a few, but I am not in love with Jack Johnson. And if there was ever any hope of me sorta-liking him, your insistence on seeing every band and musician in light of Jack destroyed it. Please, Pandoraâ€¦understand that we donâ€™t ALL love him. No way am I interested in becoming the third member to your love triangle.