23 July 2008

"live to tell" || madonna || 1986

I realize that it's kind of unusual for me to be posting an entry about such a well-known song, but I heard this tune earlier today and suddenly appreciated it in a way that I never had before.

I can't say that I related it to a particular event, situation or instance in my life. It's really just a beautiful song. Madonna gets to show off her voice, and ballads for her are somewhat of a rarity. In fact, this one, "Rain," and "Crazy For You" were the only ballads released as singles until 1998's "You Must Love Me."

Madonna really does perform a hell of a ballad, as is shown on her I'm Breathless album, so I love catching her in this (somewhat) rare form. The lyrics are poppy enough to be accessible, but still offer what may or may not be an interesting window into Madonna's soul. She did, after all, write the song with producer Patrick Leonard.

What's your secret? Will you live to tell it? If not, how will they know?


Available On:
The Immaculate CollectionSire7599-26440-2CD

19 July 2008

"ride captain ride" || blues image || 1970

I'm not a fan of most music from the '70s. In fact, I once made the argument to my brother that one is very hard pressed to find a hit song from the '70s that wasn't campy or ridiculous in some way. Obviously, there are exceptions ("Imagine" by John Lennon, I suppose), and I don't really consider this one of them.

British music was really really really really really cool in the early '70s, so I think it's neato that this little band from Tampa was able to pull off a hit song amidst all the Brit-hype. Singer Mike Pinera has a very unusual voice for this kind of music. He almost sounds like an aging blues singer who can't fully break from his gutteral nature to sing a rock song. The really cool thing, though, is that it totally works.

I read this quote from Pinera about the process of writing this song, and I absolutely need to share it here:

"I went into the bathroom, and I shut the door, and I just meditated. I calmed my mind, and I started hearing music. I went out and sat at the piano, which was a Rhodes Model No. 73, which had 73 keys. So I say, 'Okay, I need a first word.' And what came into my head was 73. I liked the rhythm, and I went, '73 men sailed in, from the San Francisco Bay.' The song sort of just wrote itself from there." (Source)

It's a cool little story that matches one of the coolest, if not the coolest song from that era.

It's a shame that Blues Image was never able to match the success of their hit song, but really, did they need to? This song is still an icon of the '70s, and it still often appears in '70s flashbacks in popular movies and television shows. And if that doesn't tell you that you wrote a cool song, I don't know what does.


Available On:
Anchorman (Soundtrack)UniversalB0002864-02CD

07 July 2008

"bandages" || hot hot heat || 2002

Indie rock meets jumpy jangle rock in this cool tune from the earlier half of our fine decade.

Hot Hot Heat are an indie rock band from Canada. They have a huge fan base, but to me they're just one of the many indie bands that managed to write one or two absolutely killer songs (the other being "Goodnight, Goodnight") and then failed to deliver anything else nearly as cool. Their latest album, Happiness Ltd. was pretty disappointing after hearing those two killer singles from previous albums.

"Bandages" is the kind of song that you hear on the radio for the first time, and do everything in your power to find out who's singing it, because you know you'll be dying to hear it again.

I wish indie rock would lean more in this direction: Catchy, cutesy rock songs, as opposed to wanky bullshit that no one cares about (read: From First To Last). I think songs like this are pushes in the right direction for modern rock music.


Available On:
Make Up The BreakdownSub PopSPCD 599CD

05 July 2008

traxxlisting #3: A Review Of 7 Current Country Hits

One genre of music that I've certainly neglected thus far in my blog is country. However, a couple of months ago I started working at a country radio station, so now I'm pretty much an expert in the current music of a genre about which I had previously known next to nothing.

In an effort to expand horizons in all ways possible, I now offer you:

A Review Of 7 Current Country Hits

  1. "Johnny & June" by Heidi Newfield
  2. I'll start with one of my favorites from our rotation. This is Heidi's lead-off single; she's been the vocalist for country group Trick Pony since 1996 and has just launched her solo career. As you may have deduced from the title, it's (sort of) about Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. The singer expresses a desire to have a "love like [theirs]," complete with "rings of fire, burning with you." She even adds that "when you're gone, I wanna go too."

    What makes the song extra cool is to know that it isn't written from a distant perspective. Newfield was actually a friend of both Johnny and June in the last few years of their lives, so she witnessed their relationship firsthand. She then wrote the song with two other songwriters.

    The lyrics and guitars are both a little strong for a country song, making them an interesting contrast to Newfield's very soft vocals. The song almost sounds as if it were written as the most-definitely-necessary power ballad on an '80s hard rock album. Don't be mistaken though: It's definitely a country song.

    This is a hell of a lead-off single for Heidi, and I sure hope to hear more from her in the years to come.


  3. "Good Time" by Alan Jackson
  4. He's the king of honky-tonk and has been for years, thanks to songs like "Chatahoochee" and "Don't Rock The Jukebox." Alan's latest single certainly isn't about anything serious; he's just looking for a party when he's off work. The song does wonders to capture the spirit of being off work on a Friday night and wanting to nothing more than kick back and hang out with friends. We've all been there, right?

    I do have a problem with one of this song's lyrics: "...beer on ice / Just like 'ol Hank taught us about." I mean...did Hank Williams really have to clue you in to the fact that beer is better cold? How did that conversation happen?

    Extra cool points to Alan for shooting the video on the Kentucky / Tennessee border, right near where I live!


  5. "All I Want To Do" by Sugarland
  6. This song would be cuter if the vocals weren't so annoying. It appears to be the summer song of choice for fans of country radio, so I guess I can't argue with that. It's not about anything, in the sense that it's about a desire to do nothing. No depth here, so this one gets a short review.


  7. "Every Other Weekend" by Reba McEntire & Skip Ewing/Kenny Chesney
  8. Reba's latest album is a collection of duets. On the album she sings this one with Kenny Chesney, but the single version (with which I am familiar) is done with Skip Ewing, who co-wrote the song. It's about a divorced couple who see each other only every other weekend, when their children transition from one house to the other.

    I have a really hard time relating to country music of this nature. I guess I can't comprehend not expressing my feelings for someone if they were as strong as these folks' seem to be. It's still a well-written song, and it does seem to make many callers happy, so obviously there are plenty of people out there relating to it. For that reason, I'm glad it was written, and I hope that it's giving hope to someone who may have lost hope.

    Listen<--This is the Kenny Chesney version.

  9. "In Color" by Jamey Johnson
  10. It's no secret that country singers (males especially) love to write about old shit. They love to sing of the way things used to be, the way things were when they were kids, or when their kids were kids. Country music has an overwhelming longing for the past, which makes sense considering the primary listening audience.

    This Jamey Johnson tune seems like a nice diamond in the rough among those other songs of that nature. The tune begins when the singer comes across an old picture of his grandpa as a young teenager. The grandpa proceeds to explain to him what life was like back then, down to small details like what the weather was on his wedding day. Each set of details concludes with, "You should have seen it in color."

    I'm just glad to know that I'm not the only person who has deeply pondered on what the world used to look like, complete with vivid colors. I think it's a really interesting thought, and I'm glad someone else agreed enough to write a song about it.


  11. "International Harvester" by Craig Morgan
  12. I'm trying really, really hard to like this song. It seems like it should be likeable, and I should sure as heck like Craig Morgan for all the charity work that he does. I'll be honest though; I'm struggling.

    Craig is a veteran of the US Army; he served in the 101st Airborne Division (same as my grandpa!), and he still helps raise money for veterans' affairs organizations. So what's the problem? I think his songs are annoying as fuck.

    This one, to me, is a total takeoff of Dolly Parton's "9 To 5." Maybe it's intentional, but I haven't seen documentation anywhere to prove it. And, I mean, come on: Does Morgan really look like he's a combine driver who drives a p-p-p-p-plower? I'm just not buying it, dude. If I watched the video and saw a guy who looked like a farmer, maybe I'd be more in on the joke, but Craig just looks like a manager at Hollister to me.

    The song is cute for what it is, I guess.


  13. "Last Name" by Carrie Underwood
  14. After "Before He Cheats," I never thought that Carrie would release another single that would make me smile. I was wrong.

    This song is sort of a spiritual predecessor to "Before He Cheats," telling the story of how she met the dude whose 4-wheel drive she'd later beat to pieces. What makes the song so cute is the subtlety with which the story is told. Pop songs are usually spelled out as if they were written for a child (because, I mean, they usually are), but this one isn't quite as insulting to the listener, and I certainly appreciate that about it.

    Having said that, it's still a Nashville pop song, which distances it from "true country music" to most fans of the genre. I totally understand this sentiment, but I can't really wag a finger for it. Carrie, like other Nashville poppers (Taylor Swift, Ashton Shepard, even Sugarland, etc.) is just trying to appeal to a wider audience. Who knows? Country music may gain a new listener from hearing a song like this and doing some deeper digging into the genre.


That's the list! Hope you enjoyed!