Friday, November 30, 2012

#132: Jason Mraz - Waiting for My Rocket to Come (2002)

Before his huge song 'I'm Yours' entered everyone's life and refused to leave, there was a very different Jason Mraz on the scene. Brace yourself: instead of a fedora, he wore a baseball cap. Musically it's very different too. The album is full of sexual innuendo, as if the title of the record didn't give that away. Speaking of obvious things, I learned a few things recently. Will.I.Am is just the name William. Jason Mraz's second album is called Mr. A-Z and it took me years to realize Mr. A-Z = Mraz. If you never it noticed either, you don't have to admit it - and you're welcome.

You and I Both
He's got a beautiful voice, chill guitar vibe, and a solid backing band. Without question, these songs stand on their own. I'm sure they were written on the guitar without any regard to the rest of the instrumentation. However, the bass, drums, and electric guitar really add to the overall feel of the track without it losing it's identity. Listening to a track like this forces me to truly appreciate how much this project has affected me. While I do enjoy this song, I don't as much as I used to. It's nice, it's fluff, but really it lacks ingenuity (not that that's a bad thing). Fluff is good (in moderation).

The Remedy ( I Won't Worry)
It's Mraz at his best. He does a lot of things right but I always adore his quick, witty lyrics. They're like Pokemon, there's no way you can catch 'em all - at least not on the first listen. Then, when you step back and really focus on the words, they're really good. Musically, he's solid. The big, soaring chorus allowed this to be a big radio hit.

The Boy's Gone
I chose this song to spotlight because it provides one of my favorite moments on any record. It's a solid song but the moments from 2:28 - 2:45 is absolutely money. The stuttering rocks my world. The rhythm puts me at a loss for words. While it's cool out of context, in the moment it's absolutely ridiculous. After all these years I still cite it as one of the most mind-boggling moments on any record. What possessed him to do it and how is it that every time it's so amazing?

All in all, I overplayed this album and yet it still stands up. I shelved this record for quite some time in favor of some of his later records and while I may not be pulling it out again soon, I do recognize it's a solid début album by a very special artist. Despite Mraz's image as just another guy with a guitar (which I still don't understand) his music is way better than public opinion gives him credit for.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

#131: The Kinks - Face to Face (1966)

The Kinks were formed by the Davies brothers and were part of the British Invasion into American music. They rose to the top with hits such as, "You Really Got Me," but this particular album is a little different from that style. Like (what seems to be) with every set of musical brothers, they dismantled the band over creative differences. They are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they had 17 top 20 singles, and 5 top 10 albums in the UK.

I know that this album is notable due to it's change over earlier Kink albums, but at times it feels more like a Beatles album to me than a Kinks. Obviously, they're both British rock and roll bands, but they're much more light-hearted this time around. When the Beatles do this type of floppy song it's in reverence to the genre and then they go back to the more difficult, deeper songs. The Kinks, however, never really graduate past this. They do have glimmers of brilliance and there's some really neat harmonies and melody lines that feature some dissonance and they work beautifully with the chord structure.

Too Much On My Mind
So it's not just the Byrds that have this prototypical 60's sound that I despise. Unfortunately for me, I have a lot of records to go before I get out of this period of music. If I keep hearing tracks like this, I may have to change the rules. There's just not enough musical ingenuity to the tracks. It's a formula of the genre in which every song sounds the exact same because it's popular (this isn't just a 1960's problem, there's issues with it today). Obviously it was big in it's time but it has not aged well.

A House in the Country
I don't know if I prefer this or "Rainy Day in June," both are candidates for best track on the album. This track features a lot more rock guitars, a bit of bluesy piano, a driving bass line, and some really cool rhythmic breaks. This song could easily be translated today and be a sneaky song that sticks with you.

All in all, it's a good album. It started out strong, got really rough, and then rebounded quickly. There were a few tracks where I was a bit worried about the overall quality, but they're an incredibly solid band. I'd definitely like to hear some later Kink albums and I think the guitars are something I could learn a lot from. As for every 60's album, the drums aren't as prominent or as interesting as I'd like them to be. I don't know if, "I'll Remember" was inspired by the Beatles or if the Beatles were inspired by the Kinks but the similarities are eerie.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#130: Gavin DeGraw - Sweeter (2011)

After falling in love with his début album, 'Chariot' I've given DeGraw chance after chance to amaze me again. While I enjoyed his self titled follow up, this is really the first album that gets back to the Gavin I fell in love with. There's no doubt he's pop music but he provides enough musical depth that it continues to be an enjoyable listen months after it's release. The album features co-writers for the first time on a DeGraw record, such as Ryan Tedder, Butch Walker, and Andrew Frampton.

A very dirty, sweet groove keeps the song moving while DeGraw sings his lungs out. It's really the calling card of his best songs. He crafts such great melodies and a lot of times the music isn't even necessary. It throws in a few cool grooves and force heads to bob. This is the definition of his signature sound to me and while I think DeGraw hasn't done his best work yet, I think he's well on his way. The reason this album was in my regular for rotation for months was because of tracks like this. They're fun, well crafted, and they groove so well.

Not Over You
It got plenty of airplay and recognition and yet it's the worst track on the album. The man knows how to write good music and how to write pop radio music, but the combination just isn't quite there yet. It's not a bad song by any stretch but it goes back to the only big noticeable problem on 'Chariot' - the lyrics lack any kind of depth. Unfortunately the music isn't much better. Usually, Gavin mixes it up enough and doesn't stick on an idea too long, however, this song feels extremely repetitive.

By far the best track on the album, one of his absolute bests. From the amazing intro (reminds me of Rob Thomas' Something to Be) to the bouncy step of the piano it never lets up. Awesome bass lines are like free food. If you didn't get it free, it's still good - but when it's free - it's amazing. The bass digs and drives throughout and really pushes the song over the edge. Of course, the the melody is boss. I can't express enough my admiration towards his melody writing.

All in all, it goes back to lyrics. I tend to forgive crummy lyrics if the music is good. This album is no exception. I like the fact that many of the lyrics are very open and generic, however, it's the times that he's a little more specific that I'm truly locked in. On the counter point, 'Candy' is lyrical fluff at it's best. It's nothing special but it's one of my favorite tracks on the album. He dances on the lyrical line throughout the album and despite the occasional misstep onto the wrong side - it's a very enjoyable listen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

#129: The Monks - Black Monk Time (1966)

The Monks were not a commercial success and neither were any of the tracks on the album, however, it's been reissued a number of times and they have become a cult success. This is their only album and the band was formed in Germany by US soldiers.

Shut Up
It's interesting how this band is both jazz oriented, yet there's factors of punk and rock as well. I like how the rhythm holds such a primary role in the music. Usually jazz has a plethora of ideas and not nearly enough focus, this however, has quite the opposite. It's interesting, it's not like other songs from this era, but it also slightly misses the mark. They stick to one idea throughout the song, but in order to keep it interesting the songs are bite sized.

I Hate You
My favorite part of the band so far are the crowd vocals. The Monks have a knack for finding really cool grooves and the because of the vamping the lead vocals really need to shine - and they do. There's a lot of fall off notes and care put into the performance. The bass doesn't push as much as I'd like it to, but the dirty guitar is perfect. The drums find a rhythm, nails it to the ground, builds a bombing shelter around it, and then nukes everything in sight to ensure that the rhythm is not disturbed. It. does. not. change.

I dig not dig all the lyrics, the album starts with this sort of, "Heya mister stop sending troops to 'Nam." Which I may have appreciated in it's time, but especially since it's so generic I have a hard time doing anything but roll my eyes when I hear it today. I'm all for a song with political motives (see Randy Newman's Political Science) but at times it feels more like Green Day's "Holiday" where it bludgeons you over the head repeatedly with it's politics. Musically  this track is no different from any other track - it's not bad but it shares all the same motifs and themes.

All in all, it's an interesting album. I found the best moments were on "We Do Wie Du" because of their use of harmonies. I didn't find the repetition of this track to be bothersome because there was enough to keep me engaged. I do appreciate the Monks ability to force me to listen to this album differently, however I found myself in a perpetual state of waiting for the band to transition out of their current phrase. I enjoyed a lot of the riffs they came up with, but they're driven so far into the ground that there's no sense in saving them or trying to dig them out - instead they just start digging another hole next to it. There's no doubt that popular music needed a shot of the Monks, it's primal in certain aspects and they do plenty of things right. I think plenty of musicians are able to learn from this band, take what they did well, and incorporate it into a different setting. The Monks aren't the full package but you have to admire their rawness and their talent.

Monday, November 26, 2012

#128: Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine (2005)

My love for her music is unique to any other musician. Granted, Apple has her faults just like everyone else but maybe we all need to be a bit more like her. She recently cancelled her South America tour to be with her dying dog. She said, "Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to pick which socks to wear to bed, but this decision is instant... I am not the woman who puts her career ahead of love and friendship. I'm the woman who stays home and bakes tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend."

Extraordinary Machine
She's absolutely brilliant. There's really no other way to say it, she's among the absolute bests in my generation. It's a shame she doesn't get the true recognition that she deserves. The music is exquisite, the lyrics are witty, and the melody is beautiful. It creates a very machine-like feeling and yet it's very big and boastful without overstating. It's an amazing orchestration of horns, flutes, bass, bells, and strings.

Better Version of Me
It features a very gritty, dirty piano part with some kickin' drums, and a low dirty bass. That's probably the best adjective for this song: dirty. Even the horns and organ are rough. What I'm amazed by is how much is going on and yet there's so much sonic space for Apple's voice. No instrument steps on another's toes and it flows incredibly well. However, it's the bridge that does it for me. I love bridges that are so completely different from the rest of the song and yet fit perfectly. "Here it comes, a better version of me."

Not About Love
When she performed this live it was an absolute stunner. It was the best birthday week I've ever had and even with a Cincinnati Reds play off game in the mix, Apple still was the brightest spot of the week. I absolutely adore the anger and the brokenness on the chorus. While I love the recording, the band and Fiona absolutely killed it live. The song is a mish-mash of emotions and ideas and much like most of Apple's songs it somehow works perfectly together.

All in all, it's a solid record. How could it not be? After being floored by some of her lyrics on her most recent album, "The Idler Wheel..." I focused a little more on the lyrics this time around. Songs I enjoyed but didn't love took on a whole new meaning and perspective (see: Parting Gift). Then there were some songs that I just couldn't get over the beauty of the arrangement (see: Waltz (Better Than Fine)). I think she's getting better and better with age and she's one of the few artists I truly hope never, ever stops recording.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

#127: Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde (1966)

The most ridiculous part about Dylan is that this is the 3rd album he had started to write/record in 1965. Upon it's release in 1966, it was rock's first double albums (2 records, 4 sides). The man is a machine, I wish I had a better understanding of his words and how he crafts them. He's an icon, he's incredible, he is simply Bob Dylan.

Visions of Johanna
I love the organ, the bass, everything about this track. It does a wonderful job of not overstating anything. Sometimes having the ability to do amazing things is overrated, at times music can be much more enjoyable with a lot less. It allows Dylan's lyrics to take control of the music and while I may never understand exactly what he was trying to say, he says it wonderfully.

Just Like a Woman
An absolutely beautiful song. The melody is so incredibly sweet while the lyrics take over the song. It's just another brilliant song from Dylan. The lead acoustic guitar along with the organ just fill out the song so phenomenally. The harmonica solo is extremely tasteful and the tone is absolutely perfect for this track. There's really not much else to say, it's the best track on the album.

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands
What amazes me most about Dylan is his ability to tell a story. There's millions of people out there that debate and argue the meanings of each and every one of his songs. There's many different ways to interpret every piece and while the writer's intention may not always be clear, it's almost better this way. It means what you want it to mean.

All in all, it's a very, very good album. This album is full of folk and blues and while I recognize that every track on this record ranges from amazing to incredible, it's also 73 minutes long. Then again, I'm getting into Dylan more than I ever thought I would. There's not many artists out there that I can sit through for that kind of inordinate length of time, but with Dylan - it's a pleasure.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

#126 Kate Miller-Heidke - Nightflight (2012)

I fell in love with Kate Miller-Heidke because of songs like, "The Facebook Song (Are You Fucking Kidding Me)" and because of her album, Curiouser. Ben Folds was quoted as saying, "She's one of those people that actually does deserve to be called a unique talent." As a operatic singer, Miller-Heidke has received a number of awards, however, her unique voice and pop sensibilities really do create something special.

Best tracks on the album. There's a lot more depth and dynamic changes on this track that are sometimes lacking otherwise. The chorus is bombastic and epic and Miller-Heidke provides the perfect tone and lyrics to fit the music (or is it the other way around?). I love the lyrics, the story, the anger, the raw emotion of it all.  Miller-Heidke isn't known nearly enough here in the states.

I decided to spotlight this song based upon one of my favorite lyrics I think I've ever heard. It's about taking a red eye flight and she says, "And if one more person coughs on me I'm gonna punch them in the face." It's in such contrast to the beauty of the song and the emotions previous to this. Then again, anyone who's had to take any kind of public transportation can totally understand a little bit of rage over something so trivial. It's an absolutely beautiful song and it's absolutely worthy of being the title track.

The Tiger Inside Will Eat the Child
Every song on the album was written by Keir Nuttall/Miller-Heidke except for two. "Let Me Fade" was written only be Heidke and Nuttall is the sole writer of this song. Knowing this, you can really tell what kind of influence Nuttal brought to the album. The lyrics are brilliant and the singing is (as always) spot on. I love the dynamics that are used on the song with Miller-Heidke even whispering coming out of the bridge. She has the uncanny ability to do these sort of things and make it seem so effortless and natural. However, if others were to try it, it probably wouldn't pan out.

All in all, it's good - it just didn't gel with me like her other albums. There are a few songs on this record that I really got into, but for the most part I was waiting to hear another album like Curiouser (and this isn't that album). It's commendable that she continues to grow and there's no doubt that she's getting better and better, but I'd this album grew a little out of my wheelhouse. Don't get me wrong, it's still a very enjoyable listen. If I had reviewed this album when I initially heard it, the score may be lower. However, the more I listen to this album, the more it grows on me and the more accepting I am of it having it's own identity.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Summary #5: 10/30/12 - 11/23/12

Album that left the biggest impression on me: 
Fred Neil's Fred Neil

Album that I couldn't wait to play again: 
Otis Redding's Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul

Album that I was the most disappointed in: 
The Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man

99 The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds
98 The Beatles' Revolver
98 The Beatles' Rubber Soul
97 Otis Redding's Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
94 Fred Neil's Fred Neil
93 B.B. King's Live at the Regal
88 Rufus Wainwright's Out of the Game
86 The Head and the Heart's The Head and the Heart
84 Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisted
81 The Fray's How to Save a Life
81 Laura Marling's A Creature I Don't Know
80 The Who's My Generation
77 Sugar and the Hi-Lows' Sugar and the Hi-Lows
76 Gavin DeGraw's Chariot

76 Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
75 Mat Kearney's City of Black and White
74 The Beach Boys's Today!
73 Guster's Keep It Together
70 Howie Day's Stop All The World Now
68 Laura Nyro's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession
67 Sugar Ray's 14:59
66 John Coltrane's A Love Supreme
56 Bert Jansch's Bert Jansch
50 The Byrds' Fifth Dimension
44 The Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man

Want to read the review for one of these albums? Simply go to the top left corner and do a search!

#125: The Byrds - Fifth Dimension (1966)

Throughout these reviews, I try to stay impartial and judge without prejudice. However, I'm like a starving piranha right now, I'm ready to tear this apart. Unless the Byrds completely changed out all of the musicians and they have a completely different sound, I don't believe I'm going to like this.

Wild Mountain Thyme
I liked the beginning. The middle harmony and the melody are pretty bland, but the way top harmony goes in and out to create a lot of air around it is really good. The strings don't really add anything other than obvious parts at obvious times. I think if they completely embraced what they wanted to do, I'd really like it. It should be an a capella song, the instrumentation does nothing for the song - so why have it?

I Come and Stand at Every Door
The song is about a man who died during Hiroshima and he's coming back to express that all he wants is peace. Musically  nothing happens during the song. There's excessive vamping (in a bad way) and while I appreciate that they're trying to do something different, it still doesn't gel with me. This album in no way drudges on quite as bad as their record, "Tambourine Man" but there are certain elements they feel as if they have to force into every song. The guitar and drum parts are incredibly similar from song to song, if those parts don't fit this particular song - they just make them quieter in the mix. It's like they're stuck in a musical creative loop that they can't get out of and the producers are trying to manufacture a way out.

Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)
Best track on the album, it doesn't sound like the Byrds at all. They ditch the harmonies, it's much more rock with a tidge of blues. The vocals are good, the guitars are wicked and quick, and the drums make Byrds history by doing something different. While the drummer may only being quarter notes, it's a welcome change. The song is only two minutes long because there's just not enough variation throughout. However, they tried something different and it gives a glimmer of hope that I may not hate the next three records I have to review.

All in all, it's better than "Tambourine Man". Then again, so far only 7 records have been worse. The record very clearly has it's fault and things I would never have let stand, but they're trying to break out of their shell and I do commend them for that. If I saw this kind of growth over the next 5 albums I think I may enjoy the sixth. Then again, I hate to be so critical about a band who has had so much success, but at the same time regardless of their success - I still don't necessarily like it. To very loosely quote Spinal Tap in reference to this album: "On which day did God create the Fifth Dimension and couldn't He have rested on that day too?"

Tomorrow's album: Mat Kearney's City of Black and White.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

#124: Mat Kearney - City of Black and White (2009)

I was surprised to see his 2006 debut album, "Nothing Left to Lose" was his biggest and most critically acclaimed album. I honestly prefer his albums in reverse order, the newer the album - the more I like it. To promote the album Kearney toured with Keane. After the record had been out 17 months, it had only sold about 90,000 copies; which is tragically low considering the talent Kearney has.

Fire and Rain
You gotta have some brass balls to call a song 'Fire and Rain'. To me, James Taylor owns the phrase and it's odd when I hear the term coming from anyone but him. However, this is one of the best tracks on the album. Kearney does a wonderful job using big percussion (especially on the bridge) to really elevate the song. The harmonies are absolutely gorgeous and while I may still not fully understand the lyrics - they're sung beautifully.

When I listen to music, I listen to full records and I find myself constantly wanting to hear this song. While I may enjoy the rest of the album, this is absolutely amazing. I'm certain that if I ever create a list of my favorite songs, this will get serious consideration. I'm not sure what it is about the song, the lyrics, the harmonies, the simple piano, or the way it's all presented. It carries such weight, such emotion, it's easily the best track on the album and quite possibly Kearney's finest work to date.

New York to California
It's songs like this that confuse me. You know when you think someone's an asshole or a douche only to discover that you were mistaken because of a simple misunderstanding? And no matter how much you were in the wrong, you struggle to accept them for who they are because you're clinging to your mistake? That's my relationship with this song. Any song that talks about California really has to work really hard to not suck. While I do love the thick piano, the harmonies, and the melody - the lyrics just don't do it for me on this particular song.

All in all, it's a good album. Listening back to this record I can totally see how "Young Love" was the follow up album. Let's not get crazy, this record will not blow your mind or rock your world. However, what it does provide is 50 minutes of good song writing. There's a lot of really memorable moments and it's definitely worth a listen, especially if you've never listened to Kearney before.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#123: Fred Neil - Fred Neil (1966)

Fred Neil really never had any commercial success, he never really toured. However, he's one in a million. There are people out there who are ridiculously talented at something, so talented it makes most people envious. Yet they don't want a career in it because it's not what they're most passionate about. Neil is the first musician I've seen in this category. He spent the last 30 years of his life working to preserve dolphins. I may not fully understand it, but the man follows his heart - and I can totally get behind that.

The Dolphins
I didn't know what to expect, but this is not what I expected. The music in this track sounds very much like 3 Dog Night (obviously they went back in time to influence Neil) and the guitar has this very dirty, open sound to it. The bass has this very full, round, quick, McCartney-ish type tone. While bass may carry the song, the vocals grab a hold of your ears and it doesn't let go. It's such a big clash of styles, but it really, really works.

That's The Bag I'm In
The guitar holds down the fort with this simple blues line while the harmonica plays with such a sweet, soulful, and perfect tone to it. Neil sings a bit differently on this track, he's a little higher in his range and he's a bit looser. Listening to it, all I can think of is that I really want to record something like this. The instrumentation throughout is excellent, but in the mix everything is very even - there's so much space (other than the drums which are in some cases, virtually non-existent).

Faretheewell (Fred's Tune)
This track has so much energy with such a relaxed environment. The beautiful, gorgeous guitar sprinkles a light melody while the bass just plays on the and of 4 and 1 and to keep it turning around. It's haunting, it's captivating, it's incredible. Not enough has been said about Neil's voice, it's absolutely stunning. I would consider myself a baritone, but I usually write tenor parts to sing because that's more "commercially acceptable". However, Neil has me reconsidering everything.

All in all, Fred Neil is a man after my own heart. This album is what it is and it does not fake what it's not. The anchor of each song switches from instrument to instrument and the guitar work (while its not always prevalent in the mix) is masterful. He reminds me of a Jim Croce type (vocally) at times. Musically they couldn't be more different. While guitars are everything in Croce's music, instrumentation is key in Neil's. From the start of the album, I liked Neil's voice, but as the album continued I just fell deeper and deeper in love with it. It's ridiculous to me that this is the first time I've ever heard the name of Fred Neil. Neil is proof that there is no justice in this world, if the universe were truly balanced - we'd still be talking about him today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

#122: The Fray - How To Save A Life (2005)

Because of their piano driven rock music (which hails from Denver) they're linked to bands like Coldplay and Keane. However, I don't think they're much like them. Despite the instrumentation similarities I believe they're much more of a "typical" rock band that just happens to use a piano over guitar. While the piano can really drive the song, it also doesn't mind banging out some chords.

Over My Head (Cable Car)
The only thing better than the incredibly big hooks are the overwhelming, feel good choruses. Slade has a perfect voice for this music and the instrumentation throughout is quite good. While it's piano driven music, the bass and drums provide enough punch to still consider this a rock type album. One of my favorite parts of this track is instead of bringing back this big chorus, they just have this simple guitar picking - which then leads back into the chorus. It's a bit of a fake out but it provides familiarity with a punch.

All At Once
What makes this album so good are the melodies. They're incredibly catchy, fun to sing along to, and when you throw in the production value - it makes the album very solid. I love the way they introduce instruments, they start out with this very dirty riff and it completely changes the feel. It's not what you expect but it feels right. While the guitar may be a bit further back in the mix than I'd like it to be, I also understand they needed to leave room for the harmonies and well as reintroduce the guitar later as a "new" part. The band does a wonderful job of creating a wall of sound so the vocals can really carry the listener.

Heaven Forbid
"How To Save a Life" isn't necessarily the pinnacle of this record (creatively), it was however the peak commercially. I'm glad that the other songs aren't trying to be it, this isn't a wood shedding process in which we're listening to a band trying to find it's big hit, and honestly - that was my number one fear going into this record. I know I shouldn't commend them for doing something they shouldn't do, but each song stands on it's own and the album doesn't run together. I realize I didn't talk about this particular song at all, but it's the best track on the album.

All in all, I'm surprised how much I liked it. It's not earth shattering, it's not mind blowing, but it's solid. Oddly, it does feel a bit dated only 7 years as it was part of a movement of similar artists, but the song writing holds up. I'll definitely pick up another one of their albums as soon as I get through this giant list of stuff in front of it.

Tomorrow's album: Fred Neil's Fred Neil.

Monday, November 19, 2012

#121: The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966)

The first Beach Boys album left me feeling underwhelmed, I have a feeling this one will be very different. I can't say enough for Brian Wilson's genius and I know that this is his masterpiece. Many publications have it listed as one of the greatest albums of all time and it inspired yet another greatest album of all time: the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. It was written primarily by Wilson after he retired from touring to focus on writing.

Wouldn't It Be Nice
Right off the bat it's way better than their 'Today' album. The music is intricate, it's interesting, and the harmonies are not just big and full - but they're complex as well. The music complexity is raised to the n'th degree, it's an amazing change. There are tempo changes, the recording quality is far superior, but it's the harmonies that provide counter melodies that really make it amazing. Absolutely phenomenal.

God Only Knows
It's one of the most beautiful songs ever written. If you've never heard the song, it's an absolute must listen. What's amazing not only about this album but particularly about this song is the sheer genius of the work. It's unlike anything else before it's time, it's amazing how they can do so many things and yet keep it so fluid. While this album may be full of songs that are musically brilliant, this song matches it lyrically. That's why it's in a league of it's own, I could listen to it a hundred times in a row and still hear something new each and every time, but the main theme is still very concrete to someone listening for the first time.

Here Today
How could anyone's mind not be blown in 1966 listening to this record? It's so incredibly unique, it's amazing, it's unlike anything else before it. It's not like it's slightly better than everything else, it pummels the competition. While this record may carry a continuous Beach Boy theme (big harmonies) it's the complexity of the harmonies and the music that allows this record to flourish. Songs can sound somewhat similar but because of how deep and rich they are, you welcome the commonalities from track to track. For instance, the sax on this song is amazing and it's such a non-essential piece of the overall picture.

All in all, I don't know what else you could ask for from an album. Anything I say as a negative to this album would only be classified as extreme nitpicking. It's phenomenally written, it's phenomenally recorded, it's about as close to perfect as you can get. If we threw in points for historical relevance, this album would be off the charts. Forget being a Beach Boys fan, if you're a fan of music and you've never heard this album - you absolutely need to.

Tomorrow's album: The Fray's How To Save A Life.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

#120: Howie Day - Stop All the World Now (2003)

I decided to review this album because I thought I may have been too harsh on this album in the past. On the first listen I didn't necessarily care for it and it's slowly grown on me over time. When musicians are arrested or are caught doing something they shouldn't how disgusted I am is oppositely proportional to how good the musician is. If they're amazing then I'm inclined to let it slide, but I'm not sure how to size up Howie Day's personal arrest record.

Howie Day is extremely talented, he's got a great voice, and he's a good song writer. That being said I think that this is the best you can expect from an album such as this. It's not a bad album by any stretch but acoustic soft rock isn't necessarily a new genre, so if you're going to record that type of music you need to do it extremely, extremely well or add something new to the genre. Since Day doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table the most he can really hope for is a big, giant hit. This song does fit the bill. The harmonies are amazing, the strings bring a lot of warmth and energy to it, and lyrically and melodically it's very strong. It's a great song. I may not listen to this album all that often but this song is absolute money.

Trouble in Here
To a certain degree I think Day would have been huge if this album came out four years prior, to a day when the Goo Goo Dolls were big. There are plenty of difference between the two bands but they're very similar in many ways. It's not that this album is bad, it's just a little worn out for me. You can really tell that he has a lot of talent which this video absolutely proves. His much uses excessive vamping (but never in a overbearing way) which lends itself well to looping music while performing live.

Sunday Morning Song
Very cool, laid back guitar part - it's almost a little Jack Johnson-y. Then again, it's a little harder because no man is more laid back than Johnson. I wish I had more nice things to say about this album, it's alright - it just doesn't do much for me. I do love his voice, the man can sing. He doesn't have one of those 'golden voices' but he knows what he has and he knows how to use it.

All in all, it's a lot like the first time I heard this album. There's nothing that really grabbed me outside of Collide. It's not a bad record by any stretch but it doesn't really feels like it adds anything or does anything better than anything else. Dynamically nothing really happens there's no kind of hits or accents throughout the entirety of the album which makes it drone on more than it should. I do appreciate the creative risks he took on 'This Time Around' and I do think there is a beauty in the simplicity of the music and the simplicity of the production. The man clearly has talent and I think I need to grab another one of his CDs, however this is one of those unfortunate albums where it's all downhill after the big single.

Tomorrow's album: The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

#119: The Beatles - Revolver (1966)

If I had to choose a favorite Beatles album, this would be it. It's impossible for me to be impartial because I know this album better than most, and it's an absolute pleasure every time I listen. I think when non-Beatles fans think of the Beatles they think of, "Love Me Do", "Yellow Submarine", "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", but songs like that aren't the reason why the Beatles are so highly regarded. It's the depth of their work. Look no further than the opening track, Taxman, it's not a big hit by any means for the Beatles but for anyone else it could have been their one big song.

Eleanor Rigby
I don't know how better else to phrase it, it's the depth of the record that makes it so amazing. Having such variance from track to track, keeping the listener engaged, and not reusing themes and ideas but somehow finding a way to tie everything together. We go from a rock song about the Taxman wanting all your money to a song featuring only strings and vocals about no one showing up to Eleanor's funeral. The string arrangement is the phenomenal of phenomenals. I realize that I sometimes use big language and shower things with praise (sometimes I go overboard) to make a point, but the only danger in doing this that some words lose their meaning. This track is phenomenal. Looking backwards, no one had written music similar to this, but it still works, it still fits. That's what makes this one of the greatest albums of all time, it pushes boundaries in an acceptable way to the listener where you wonder why it hadn't been done before.

And Your Bird Can Sing
Musically it's deep, lyrically it's deep, but the harmonies are just so good. It's amazing how well it holds up all these years later. Then again, if someone put this exact album out today with more modern recording techniques - I'd be just as floored. It has nothing to do with it's place in history and everything to do with it being song of the best song writing of all time. The details are what makes it so incredible, the bass isn't a prevalent part and yet I could spend an afternoon figuring it all out and exactly how it all fits together.

For No One
I think it's one of the best songs ever written, lyrically it's one of Paul's best. He has the most incredible way of telling stories that you've heard before, yet it's never been said quite like this. The instrumentation isn't necessarily "normal" for this sort of song (especially with the horn part) it's like the song wouldn't have worked and would have never happened unless it happened exactly like this.

All in all, it's about as close to perfect as you can get. I don't find the recording quality to be a detriment, nor do I find it endearing either. I don't notice it when I listen, partially because the bass is more upfront and fuller than some of their earlier records. Throughout these reviews, I feel like I'm a broken record. I'm asking for a bunch of different things in order for it to be considered timeless. This album delivers. Each track is it's own complete entity and has it's own unique identity, however, they work perfectly together as a whole.

Tomorrow's album: Howie Day's Stop All the World Now.

Friday, November 16, 2012

#118: Sugar Ray - 14:59 (1999)

I listened to this album well over a hundred times "back in the day" and I'm eager to see just how well it holds up a dozen years later. Was it's success based upon Sugar Ray's image and who they appealed to or were they legitimately good? The title of the record is in reference to the saying that "everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame" and it's simply stating that Sugar Ray doesn't believe their time is up. Part of their argument lies in one of their tracks, 'Abracadabra' which is a Steve Miller Band cover (SMB was labeled a one hit wonder (erroneously) "back in the day" as well).

Personal Space Invader
When I think of this album, this is the track that always pops in my head. If you look back upon this album you'll see that the lyrics don't really have any depth and that they try to stay in the more playful, fun range. The opening lick is solid, the melody is good, and it's a unique - then again it's not nearly as solid as I had remembered. Other than the opening groove, there's not much more to the song.

Live and Direct
Very cool guitar part, it's smooth and flows through the track. There's a bit of rapping, some singing, and has a solid melody, however what sets this song apart from the rest of the album so far is the fact that both it's chorus and melody are good. The variations in the vocals keep you interested throughout and rhythmically it's the most solid on the album.

It's songs like this that really launched Sugar Ray onto the pop radio spectrum. It's got a nice, chill groove to it, the bass holds it down incredibly well, guitars duel it out (softly), so that Mark McGrath sings some really beautiful melodies and passable pop lyrics. It's the chorus that really allows the track to shine, a Hammond Organ really fills it out allowing so much warmth in such a small sonic space and the band does such a great job bringing it back to the verse.

All in all, I enjoyed it. Looking back - it's fun. I must remember this album with a bit of nostalgia and rose colored glasses because it's really not all that good. I mean, it's good, it's pop. It's just nothing that will stand the test of time. I found myself singing along to some of the songs even though I hadn't heard it in 10+ years. One of Sugar Rays greatest strengths was introducing counter melodies through electronic instruments and guitars, the songs use excessive vamping and they really do a wonderful job keeping the listener engaged.

Tomorrow's album: The Beatles' Revolver.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#117: The Who - My Generation (1965)

It's sad, all I really know about The Who previous to this writing is that Pete Townsend and Keith Moon are in the band and they do windmills. But apart from the big hits I really don't know much about the band. They are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they've sold 100 million records, they've had 27 top 40 singles, and they have been dubbed "the greatest band of all time" by Jack Black. One of those accolades isn't as prestigious as the others.

I Don't Mind
The harmonies are very light and provide great contrast to the very sharp and heavy guitars. There's a great guitar solo, very soulful and it doesn't overstate. The lyrics are very honest and meaningful and the lead vocals provide a perfect amount of vulnerability.

Much to Much
I don't know why I didn't expect to hear this many love songs, maybe it's because I identify The Who as a rock band. I especially enjoyed the drums throughout the album, they're very different, unique, and busy. They add a ton to love songs such as this, it gives it a completely different feel. I'm not sure if I expected to hear 12 'My Generations' but I'm very happy to see such a wide spectrum of tracks. The recordings do sound a bit dated at times due to a lack of depth in the bass and a lack of kick in the kick drum. That being said, it's absolutely wonderful for exactly what it is.

Please, Please, Please
I'm absolutely a sucker for a blues track in the middle of an album. The vocals are phenomenal.  Roger Daltrey sings with such soul in his voice and it's really not a far stretch considering the blues elements in the previous tracks. One thing I can't get over is the drums, while the songs I spotlighted contain the most "tame" drums tracks - Keith Moon provides so much complexity and variation throughout to really pull it all together.

All in all, I'm surprised how much I liked it. It's a very, very solid album. The recording quality is unfortunately dated but skipping ahead, I noticed that their follow up record is sonically much bigger. The musicians in this group are ridiculously talented, they know how to blend, they know how to keep it fresh, and they know what to do and when to do it. There's tracks that they clearly draw from old school rock and roll and while I do enjoy those songs - The Who are at their best when they're rocking out to their signature sound. If this album had just come out, I would be going crazy not over the record itself but over the talent and the potential that The Who possessed. That being said this is their début album which is - impressive.

Tomorrow's album: Sugar Ray's 14:59.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

#116: Gavin DeGraw - Chariot (2003)

This album may made a bit of noise on the pop radar in 2005, even though it was released in 2003. While many people may know him from his 'Dancing With the Stars' stint or his newest album, 'Sweeter' it's this album that defines Gavin DeGraw to me. On the 2004 re-release a second CD was included with acoustic tracks of each of the songs. For this review - I'll just be covering the original release.

Follow Through
"Oh this is the start of something good, don't you agree?" It's such a beautiful way to start a song and an even better way to start the album. Acoustic guitars hold down the fort with the drums chopping away while DeGraw lays down a beautiful melody strung with words of hope and love. It's one of his best songs and one of the big reasons I've bought several of his albums. He's got a very soulful, fragile voice and his songwriting is quite good, too.

I Don't Want to Be
Such a simple yet effective guitar lick to open the track. It rocks, it groove, and it's both uplifting and dark at the same time. However, it's the bridge that I really dig. A truly good bridge changes the feel and direction of the song but it still has to fit. The chorus is big and bold, marking DeGraw's biggest hit to date.

Best track on the album. A very thick, tasty piano is the undercurrent to this song and it floods over when the chorus comes around. There's no weak spots on the track, big guitars, huge hooks, a little organ, full harmonies, and strong lyrics. It's DeGraw at his absolute best and while he has written plenty of material since 'Chariot' nothing else quite captures the moment like this. I always get chills on the ending vamp, "Give me your strength, Chariot."

All in all, it's an enjoyable record. I try to stay away from the singles when I spotlight certain tracks and while some tracks demand to be covered, otherwise it's because the rest of the album doesn't step up to the plate. While I enjoyed every track on this album, it's the first three singles that really carry this album. Musically it's very similar from track to track but DeGraw has enough variation to keep it fresh. Some of the lyrics lack even a puddle's worth of depth but overall it's a good album. I enjoy it every time I listen to it.

Tomorrow's album: The Who 's My Generation.