The song known by many folks in my generation as the joint that plays at the end of “Cruel Intentions”, one of the classic teen movies from the 90s that stands out from the rest for it’s unapologetic lusty arrogance from stars Ryan Phillipe, Reese Witherspoon and Michelle Gellar. But the song itself not only wraps up the movie pretty perfectly, it’s an amazing combination of Brit pop, alternative rock and Rolling Stones-inspired orchestral music wrapped all up in a neat little package for consumption during the height of the TRL Era. It’s curious how The Verve were able to make the song so melancholy and yet so vivid and triumphant at the same time, taking listeners on an emotional roller coaster of ups, downs, ins, outs and lots more, as singer Richard Ashcroft conveys a sense of struggling to come to grips with his own self. It appears on their third studio album Urban Hymns. An interesting note: the song was accused of using too much in the sample of the song that inspired it, 1965′s “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones, and after re-negotiation and changes made, the song and lyrics are credited to Verve lead singer Richard Ashcroft but also Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
It’s always amazing when you have friends that put you up on new music. In this particular instance, a few friends of mine now living out in Portland exposed me to The Passenger just last year, and I even had the chance to go and see them live. Subsequently, I made the purchase of their independent album, and was pleasantly surprised by their brand of alternative pop rock. There’s a certain sense of self reflection that flows throughout the album, title A Dog Named Bear, that comes when the years pass and you slowly grow from a teen into adulthood. To me, the song that best reflects this is “Gift Horse”: it’s extremely angsty but also celebratory in a certain sense. The thing that I love about the song the most is that it reflects the difficulties that so many of us face in becoming adults, but are either too afraid or proud to admit. It’s ripping and screeching, but also unflinching in it’s vulnerability. It’s loud and powerful but still shows a side of artists and musicians that many times is hidden by onstage and on record personas: one of being fractured and unsure. Definitely a notable song and album from an indie band that will hopefully still be putting out music for years to come. The link to the song is available on Bandcamp at http://thepassengerfl.bandcamp.com/track/gift-horse .
Many folks regard the sister trio Haim as having one of the best albums of 2013, so I decided I’d at least take a listen to one of their songs. And you know what? They ain’t half bad! Yes, “The Wire” is clearly one of their more popular songs, and I haven’t yet dug that deep into their catalog, or into the album as it is, but this song is actually pretty cool. Of course it’s all about relationships, breaking up, moving on and so forth, as evidence by the dudes in the video. But the songs is equal parts sunny, flowery and glossy, while also having a twinge of darkness and angst to it. Makes me want to delve a lot deeper into the world of new millennium pop music in 2014, something I’m planning on doing anyway. All in all, it’s easy to see why 2013 was a big year for Haim with songs like this!
The news just came that Rock & Roll pioneer, legend, Velvet Underground front man and all around rebel Lou Reed has passed away today. Undoubtedly, there will be tons of tributes to a man that became an icon in the eyes of many fans for much of what he did for an to rock music throughout his life and career. I admit that I still am learning a lot about rock and some of it’s biggest figures, including Reed. One of the things that has always intrigued me about him is how he seemed to intentionally take the road less traveled throughout his career, from fronting a band that the basic antithesis of the Flower child generation in the late 60′s and early 70′s in The Velvet Underground, to all of his tongue-in-cheek, sometimes questionable and mysterious issues with sexuality that he touched on in his music, to releasing some of the most divisive pieces of music in history, from Transformer to Metal Machine Music. Even more interesting to me was how he was tapped earlier this year to review Kanye West’s album Yeezus, and the praise that he bestowed upon it. Here’s a piece of music by Reed that can be found on the Internet and will probably have at least 2 million views by tomorrow morning, but is still pretty amazing.
It’s kind of unbelievable that the debut album by the Red Hot Chili Peppers turned 29 years old this year, but it just goes to show that good music is timeless. This song, though not on the debut, has always been one of their most popular and one of my favorite tunes from the group. They always had a knack and a mastery of combining funk and rock into a beautiful hybrid, and “Under the Bridge” demonstrates that beautifully and possibly more than any other song in their catalog.
I was introduced to this song during my time in Austin at SXSW this year. No, I hadn’t been living under a rock for the last year and a half, and I had known about Foster the people and all of their success with “Pumped Up Kicks”, but I had personally not been privy to do more research on them as a group. Then, while staying with a friend from undergrad that is currently living just outside of Austin and he played it for me. Essentially, it’s a happy song. Very upbeat, and something that someone can listen to when they’re feeling down in the dumps to lift spirits. One of the strengths of Foster The People’s music is that in does well to incorporate different feels and attitudes: at it’s foundation, a song like “Call It What You Want” is pop and radio friendly, but there are also lots of soul and R&B elements, as well as the endearing piano keys, the cuts and scratches to help open the number and call-and-response chorus that stays stuck in your mind to the point where you start repeating it to yourself over and over and over. It’s lighthearted, it’s energetic, it’s music from musicians that know not to take themselves too seriously.
For the first installment of a curiously-titled but what I hope turns out to be informative segment that I’m starting for this blog, I’m highlighting this song that I’ve literally been trying to dig up for YEARS! I first heard the song while working as a cashier at an Old Navy Outlet clothing store in Ferndale, MI while in college. It was a song played during both the slower summer months as well as the busier holiday season, and throughout my day at the store I remember swaying back and forth to it, hoping that the hours would zoom by a little bit faster. And for one reason or another, the melody and the hook stayed lodged in my subconscious for a long time, yet I could never remember the name of the song, or who the artist was. And lo and behold, earlier this week, it randomly came on the radio at a local indie station. Fumbling and fidgeting around with my phone desparately trying to Shazam it, I triumphed, and here we are! I’m not totally sure of why I’ve always like this song and why it stayed with me for so long. Could it be the nostalgic, sentimental feel of missing the Winter season in the Midwest (everything except for the snow)? Could it be the gentle strum of the guitars? Could it be the airy, lighthearted breeze of the lyrics that make you think they’re gazing endlessly out a window as snowflakes descend one by one to the frozen ground, blanketing and enveloping entire neighborhoods in Winter’s majesty? Or maybe it just makes me think back to the days of struggling through undergrad and trying to keep a part time job. In any case, it’s a great song by Fountains of Wayne and an awesome way to kick off a new part of a growing music blog. Take a listen and be taken away!