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Music Review: Patrick Stump ‘This City’

PatrickStumpThisCity

Photo | Lockerz

Patrick Stump (Lead Singer, Fall Out Boy) recently finished up his first complete solo album ‘Soul Punk’, due in October, and I recently got the chance to hear his first single ‘This City’.

‘This City’ featuring Lupe Fiasco is a pop tribute to his hometown of Chicago. I wanted to write a quick post about this track purely because it’s obvious to me that it’s going to be big. How do I know that? Well, the song isn’t life changing but it is written by someone who obviously understands what it takes to write a hit song. He chose to use a chord progression that has been featured in countless pop singles. Most recently in Jay Sean’s ‘Down’ and Chris Brown’s ‘Forever’… which both became massive hits. It’s simple, it’s repetitive and it’s exactly what he needs to break through the preconceptions of becoming a solo act. Take a listen and let me know what you think in the comments section (below).

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhTYFuRWheU[/youtube]

Music Review: Nelson ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’

Nelson Lightning Strikes Twice

Photo | NearOldRocker

I’m going to attempt to tell you about Nelson’s new album, Lightning Strikes Twice. Honestly, I’m hesitant to even write about this because it’s so difficult for me to explain just how great it is. Regardless, I’ll at least take a shot at it.

In case you forgot who Nelson is, I’ll bring you up to speed. In 1990, Nelson released their debut album After The Rain. By September of that same year, their single ‘(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection‘ became their first No. 1 hit in the United States. I would do an entire biography on their lives, but basically all you need to know is that they were “those rock band twins with the long blonde hair” who are also the sons of the late Ricky Nelson (and grandsons of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson). Nelsonmania only lasted from about 1990-1992, but they have continued to write new music and release albums ever since.

A few years ago, an Italian record label contacted the band and discussed if they’d be interested in creating an album as a follow-up to After The Rain. Their collective vision was to make this album as if it were to be released in 1993, at the end of the hair metal era but before the grunge scene. A few years later, Lightning Strikes Twice was born. Plain and simple, this is the most unexpected album I’ve ever heard. It feels like this was a secret album that they made immediately after their release of “Love and Affection” but they waited twenty years to release it. I decided against doing a track-by-track review because honestly it would take me a week to properly describe each track. Why? Because this album doesn’t make any sense to me and I love that. I can honestly say that I have never heard a band properly replicate the sound of their success years after their heyday… until now. Most bands cross over into the mainstream with one hit song. Then they take that success, go into the studio and create a follow-up album that’s completely different because “this is the music they’ve always wanted to make”. It may have taken twenty years, but they’ve finally managed to create a proper follow-up album for their original fans. Back to their roots with huge guitar melodies and epic ballads, Nelson has proven that they are a fine wine from the early 90s; Better with time. Yes, I seriously just compared Nelson to a fine wine.

If you don’t listen to these tracks, something is wrong with you:

How Can I Miss You?
Reminds me of “Love and Affection” & “After The Rain”, yet still unique.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ady-oewGUSE[/youtube]

 

To Get Back To You
Reminds me of “Nobody Wins In The End”.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq87-Fpsa_Y[/youtube]

Skylar Grey’s Near Future

Skylar Grey Invisible

Photo | CheckTheBlog.net

A little over a month ago, I wrote a post about Skylar Grey and I said a few things in the podcast in anticipation of her writing her own single sometime in the near future. Well, “the near future” came much sooner than I thought. Skylar recently finished up her new album ‘Invincible’ and I got the chance to hear her leading single ‘Invisible’ yesterday. (Not yet available for download)

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWMjUbdOw9M&feature=related[/youtube]

 

I work as a Local Producer for Kidd Kraddick in the Morning and believe it or not they had Skylar in as a guest yesterday morning. She did an amazing acoustic medley of ‘Coming Home‘, ‘I Need A Doctor‘ and ‘Love The Way You Lie‘ (Below).

 

She’s such an incredible musician and I’m excited to see where this new album takes her. As soon as I get info on the release date, I’ll post it.

Music Review: Weird Al ‘Alpocalypse’

Weird Al Yankovic - Alpocalypse

Photo | CryHavok.org

Weird Al’s latest album… Is it just as weird as his previous works? Is there enough accordion? Yes and Yes, my friend. Weird Al keeps doin’ what he’s always done with ‘Alpocalypse’.

Due to my Dad and Uncle’s influence, I’ve been a fan of “Weird Al” Yankovic since I can remember. I remember listening to ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Harvey The Wonder Hamster’ in the car when I was like six years old… and not understanding why the songs were funny, yet still was laughing. Jump fifteen years into the future and I’m still sort of doing the same thing. I know I like Weird Al… but, I can’t exactly put my finger on why. I think it may be due to my appreciation for talented musicians that don’t take themselves to seriously. Al is an extremely smart guy. He graduated Valedictorian from his High School and actually earned a degree in Architecture from California Polytechnic State University. Yet it seems like people don’t realize how much talent it takes to do what he does. Maintaining a career in music is difficult enough… but a career in parody? That ability to make someone laugh is incredible… and he’s been doing it for 30 years!

‘Alpocalypse’ is the Weird Al I’ve always known. Obviously a few tracks are better than others, but overall it’s a great effort on his part. There are a few stand outs: ‘Polka Face’, his classic polka collaboration of current hit music is terrific. I’ve always loved his choice of songs, and he doesn’t disappoint this time either. Somehow, he makes Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ feel like it always should’ve been a polka standard. I also enjoyed ‘Ringtone’, an original track based around an annoying ringtone. It’s filled with great background harmonies throughout, as well as guitars that remind me of late 70’s Boston/Queen. My last stand out pick is ‘Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me’, an epic ballad about junk email. This track now makes me want to see Weird Al in concert just so I can watch how an amazing ballad (filled with driving guitars and a huge choir) is performed by the parody king himself. Overall, ‘Alpocalypse’ doesn’t disappoint. It’s weird, it has an overabundance of accordion, some yodeling is involved… all in all, it’s a classic Weird Al album. Below are videos and quick reviews of many of the songs on the album.

Perform This Way – A tribute to Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’. It’s clever, but comes off more as mockery than parody.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss_BmTGv43M[/youtube]

 

CNR – A White Stripes-esque track based around actor-comedian Charles Nelson Reilly. Unless you’re a huge fan of Charles Nelson Reilly…feel free to skip it.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLnapb-30hA[/youtube]

 

TMZ – A parody of Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’ based around TMZ’s celebrity obsessions. It’s also clever, but somehow already seems dated. More videos after the break.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwqFgnl4rMs[/youtube]

(more…)

Music Review: Heidecker & Wood ‘Starting From Nowhere’

Heidecker & Wood

Photo | UnderTheRadar

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! may possibly be my favorite comedy TV show of all time. Absurdity at its finest is the only way I can sum it up. Tim Heidecker (one half of Tim and Eric) is actually quite an accomplished musician. Throughout the course of Tim and Eric, Tim has helped create some extremely bizarre songs to accompany their even more absurd sketches. Recently, Tim has teamed up with a Tim and Eric composer Davin Wood to create Heidecker and Wood, a musical side project that was born while messing around in his home studio. They’ve recently finished recording a full-length album of 70’s soft rock, Loggins and Messina/Steely Dan/Neil Young-esque originals, Starting From Nowhere. The entire idea for this duo was formed due to Davin’s ability to create such authentic sounding 70’s tracks combined with Tim’s ability to write absolutely puzzling (yet still somehow dry and entertaining) lyrics. I’ve listened to the entire album and I actually had to sit and collect my thoughts for a week before I could figure out what to write. (It took me a week to figure out what I thought of a glorified Tim and Eric album?!) I came up with this:

Tim and Davin have managed to create this odd area between absolutely bizarre humor and sincere musicianship. It’s such a fine line that literally forces the listener to draw their own conclusions as to whether or not the album was meant as comedy or was actually an honest attempt by musicians who just happen to also be comedians. Most comedians who infuse music into their acts tend to ultimately take the ‘funny way out’. By that I mean, audiences expect only a certain quality of music from comedians. For example, with Stephen Lynch, Jimmy Fallon, Bo Burnham, etc., it seems as if audiences are willing to let a musical comedian’s dialogue completely overshadow the music itself. This in itself has bred such an incredibly lazy disposition amongst stand-up comedians. Realistically, as long as you’re funny, then audiences don’t particularly care if you can actually play your instrument or not. Well, then why try? That attitude is the reason I like this record.

In twelve songs, Tim and Davin managed to prove that comedians are able to create music that isn’t just slapstick and parody. The reason for this? They’re real musicians! They understand how to craft a melody, plain and simple. Tim’s shaky vocals give each song this puzzling, yet somehow oddly enjoyable feeling. I’ll put it this way: It’s like Halls and Oates teamed up with the Doobie Brothers for a huge sold out concert. In the middle of the gig, they both start jamming together. Suddenly, Michael McDonald appears on stage and starts singing brand new lyrics over this sweet yacht rock jam. No one in the audience has ever heard this song before yet it somehow feels so comfortably familiar.

After a description like that, my real question is: why wouldn’t you listen to this record? Instead of spending so much time questioning the intent of the artists, just sit back and accept their sweet, sweet music.

Check out Heidecker and Wood’s (almost 8 minute) Christmas epic, ‘Christmas Suite’

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MutVf_F0Hjo[/youtube]

 

Heidecker and Wood ‘Cross Country Skiing’

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQedg_VkB98&playnext=1&list=PL983B275EFCBE6CCF[/youtube]

Jennifer Lopez ‘On The Floor’: Another product of the hit making machine

Audio Faders

Photo | join the dots

Many people believe that a “hit song” can be created by anyone that has the proper resources and a group of talented musicians surrounding them.  A recent hit single, J Lo’s ‘On The Floor’, gives this theory some merit.  J Lo hasn’t had a hit in 4 years and hasn’t had a massive mainstream hit in 7, so the success of her new album is extremely important to her career.  She obviously needed a hit, so (like many artists choose to do) she recruited the help of some of best producers in the business.  RedOne (Producer for: Lady Gaga, Backstreet Boys, Akon, Usher) and Pit Bull joined forces.  They chose to sample a ridiculously catchy hook from a late 80’s french pop song ‘Lamabada’ by Kaoma.  So yes, this hit song was manufactured by a few of the best producers and songwriters in the industry.  But, does that make it any less of a success?

Regardless of the number of people who ended up working on the project, the outcome is still just as relevant.  If all artists chose to alienate producers and songwriters who could help advance their career, we would rarely see a radio hit that could achieve mainstream success so quickly.  So yes, again, it’s sad to accept that your romantic idea of one lonely struggling artist writing a hit single and being discovered by a record exec at a dive bar isn’t quite as possible as you thought.  But, then again it might happen… eventually.  The point is, record labels need hit singles to make money.  They don’t like “mights”.  If a song “might” be a hit, they’ll rarely take the chance.  That’s why they have every major producer and songwriter in their back pocket, so when they have a triple threat (like J Lo), they can guarantee a successful album which translates into more and more money for them.

Jennifer Lopez (feat. Pit Bull) ‘On The Floor’

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4H_Zoh7G5A[/youtube]

 

Kaoma ‘Lambada’

[youtube width=”480″ height=”390″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-SsQdXOkVg[/youtube]