Monday, June 25, 2012

Walk the Moon – “Walk the Moon”

I’ll put it right out there upfront: this is just about as much fun as you can have listening to an album. What a combination of energy, pop, and electro-rock chops. Walk the Moon hails from my military-assisted temporary hometown area of Cincinnati, where I had the pleasure of seeing them play a hometown show opening for Young the Giant. Young the Giant (owners of a 4-star review of their own) was great, but Walk the Moon was the crowd pleaser. Simply put, these guys are ready to blow up, and their recent tour on the late night tv circuit seems to agree. If anyone is poised for a Foster the People-ish run at the charts, it’s these guys, and we’re all better for it.

Let’s start right near the beginning, when “Lisa Baby” bursts forth, leading a six song, 25 minute spree of amped up, toe-tapping energy that doesn’t quit till the musical interlude of “Lions”. “Lisa Baby” is almost the very definition of pulsating, daring you to hold still. With guitars swarming, it turns into a crowd pleasing anthem. Just try not joining in. On “Next in the Line” the band sends the guitars flying again, on a positively Killers-ish rocker. The spree continues with pop sensation “Anna Sun”, ready to burn up a radio near you with the call to arms party line for the youth: “What can I say?/This house is falling apart/we got no money/but we got heart”.

It doesn’t stop there. “Tightrope” keeps the energy and guitar riffs free-flowing and the oh-ohs full speed ahead. “Jenny”, with the chorus of “Jenny’s gotta body just like an hourglass” and synth impact is a live goldmine. It’s impossible not to dance, and succeeds evens to the point where a line like “I wanna be the sand inside that hourglass” is nearly forgivable (nearly). “Shiver Shiver”, a new track not present on the original album is good as well, ending a 25 minute streak every band dreams of.

But wouldn’t you know they saved the best for last? After the okay, slow-tempo “Iscariot” and the very good “Fixin’” comes the out-of-nowhere “I Can Lift a Car”, previously featured on this blog. (Aside: is it hipster of me to say I like the original, less-produced version? Maybe. Never mind.) “I Can Lift a Car”, is just about the most perfect example of mixing indie, pop, and rock that you can find. From the clever lines (“She kissed me on/my new futon/I’m clumsy ‘cause she kinds me attractive”) to the bursting, anthemic chorus, the song is a gem.

Walk the Moon is the kind of band that I love to find. They’re an indie rock band that bring enough creativity to the table to satiate indie fans, but enough pop sensibility to be immediately wonderful. You will love them, and you will love them fast. This is an album worth having, and I hope you give it a try.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Eve 6 – “Speak in Code”

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Back in a different music life, I was a big fan of Eve 6. Even saw them in concert once back in 2003. To most people they’re known for “Inside Out”, aka the “heart in a blender song”. They had mild success with personal favorite “Here’s to the Night”, but then had disappointing sales plague their third album. Soon Eve 6 disappeared, another fallen pop rock band from an era when bands like Third Eye Blind and Matchbox 20 actually ruled the charts.

Eve 6 getting back together in 2012 is certainly surprising. I doubt they even entertain the idea of being popular again, but perhaps they just love to make music. I don’t normally address music like theirs on this blog, but Eve 6 brings an interesting element to the table for me personally. How do you deal with music that you once had a taste for but now mostly like out of sentimentality? When that music remains sentimental, you keep playing it and remember 2003: freshman year at college, road trips to the beach, visits to the girlfriend you have back home. But now here is Eve 6 in 2012, and curiosity is mostly the cause for listening.

What I found is that, track by track, Eve 6 still can succeed at some of the elements that made me like them back in the day, even if overall this is clearly their weakest overall album (I think…who knows what I would have thought 10 years ago). Eve 6 has always been a quirky-lyric band with a penchant for hooky pop rock. Say what you will, but these guys do know how to create an undeniable hook, and they still show that ability here. Take “Lost & Found” for example, the album’s best song. When the chorus breaks out, there’s a fantastic hook that draws you in. On a lyrical side, Eve 6’s ever-present desire to strike with the vocab and surprising rhymes is still there in average rockers like “Victoria”.

There’s a streak of sub-par (okay fine…”bad”. Bad songs. Not good at all.) songs here, ranging from “B.F.G.F” to “Lion’s Den” to “Blood Brothers”, that really drags down the whole album. But there’s also about five worthy tracks here. “Curtain” and “Situation Infatuation” both bring something to the table on the upbeat side, and Eve 6 shows they still have the sensitive side the flash in some of their better songs from the past (“Here’s to the Night”/”Girlfriend”) with acoustic guitar-focused “Moon” and melodic “Pick Up the Pieces”, which is the closest the album gets to a special moment.

I don’t really recommend you run out and get this album unless you were truly and Eve 6 fan back in the day. “Lost & Found” is worth the time though, and “Pick Up the Pieces” is worth a try. “Situation Infatuation”, “Moon”, and “Curtain” are there as well if you like those. I certainly never thought I’d hear a new Eve 6 song again, and I’m not exactly jumping around excitedly, but there’s a couple songs here that take me back to 2003 in a good way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ten Best Songs of the First Half of 2012

AviciiLevels

A choice list of some bands yet to release albums in 2012: Muse, The Killers, Passion Pit, Yeasayer. And plenty more. Not to mention the occasional thing that I’ve never heard of that will change my world (hello War on Drugs and Gotye, thanks for the 2011 memories).

These lists are always difficult to handle, and I’ll give you an example why. How do I deal with Young the Giant’s “Apartment”, one of my personal favorites of 2012 only because I didn’t discover the 2011 awesomeness till this January? What about Walk the Moon? They’re 2011 album is being practically re-released in 2012, meaning I can probably get away with it. Then there’s the aforementioned Gotye, who I was ahead of the game on, putting them on my 2011 list based on their New Zealand release, although technically their US release was 2012. Do I get a free pass there?

The result is a very selfish list. When you only have 30 true readers and the occasional random outsider (hello outsiders! you are welcome here!) you get to be a little selfish. This is MY top 10 of the first half of 2012, late discoveries and all. Yes to Young the Giant, yes to Walk the Moon, no to Gotye (but, seriously, Gotye, you are amazing, and you’re my favorite pop success story in the last decade).

The list! The list! Here goes the list!

#10) Avicii – “Levels”

Heard this one in a commercial the other day, so it may be leaking into the national consciousness. Primarily electronic, the music itself packs quite the punch. But it’s the impeccable sped up Etta James sample (and fantastic image above) that makes this song a surprise winner in the first half of 2012.

#9) Nerves Junior – “Champagne & Peaches”

Discovered first in a winter lodge in Ohio’s Amish country (aside: how far away does that seem from the Arizona desert I live in now?"), Nerves Junior at their best compare favorably to a slightly more out-there version of The Verve. “Champagne & Peaches” is them at their best, combining psychadelic guitars and pensive vocals into a fantastic track.

Listen and download at: http://prettygoeswithpretty.typepad.com/pgwp/2011/12/a-list-of-noteworthy-lists.html

#8) Snow Patrol – “New York”

Soft-spot for Snow Patrol be darned. I’ve always liked them. At this point I just give in to the pseudo-schmaltz. It’s a line they tread so well. But when “New York” starts building, first the drum then that horn, it dazzles. It doesn’t have the staying power I hoped for (at first it gave me chills), but it’s a wonderful track worth listening to.

#7) Perfume Genius – “Take Me Home”

Perfume Genius is the master of raw emotion. Sometimes raw to the point of uncomfortability (I truly hated a couple tracks on the critically acclaimed album). But on songs like “Take Me Home” and other stunners, when lines like “for I have grown weary on my own” are sung with trembled over such simple instrumentation, it’s very moving.

#6) Bear in Heaven – “Reflection of You”

It took me a little while to realize I loved this song. Bear in Heaven had a couple great tracks a while back, but I never gave them a whole lot of attention. Now with “Reflection of You” they have a top track of the year so far. “Reflection of You” is smothered in synths but also heart: “I want to run to you but my legs won’t respond” starts up an excellent chorus.

#5) Active Child – “Hanging On”

I recently posted about this track, questioning my own affinity for it. I simply don’t usually like music like this. But frankly I can, and have, gotten lost in “Hanging On” repeatedly over the last few weeks. If I can get just one of you to try playing this song in the car, at night, by yourself, I’ll have won.

#4) Walk the Moon – “I Can Lift a Car”

These guys are gonna be big. I think. Maybe they won’t. If they end up being small you’ll forget I predicted that anyhow. I saw these guys in Cincinnati (technically Newport, KY, but Cincinnati just pretends that belongs to them) for a hometown show, and they were amazing. Such potential and a loyal following. And with songs like “I Can Lift a Car” they are destined for big things as they blend indie and pop.

#3) Passion Pit – “Take a Walk”

Welcome back, Passion Pit! A couple years after thrilling me with the likes of “Sleepyhead”, “Moth’s Wings”, and “The Reeling”, Passion Pit finally return, and they do so in full force with “Take a Walk”, one of their very best. It’s fun, it’s energetic, it’s anthemic, it’s thoughtful, and it’s a story. It’s a true gem and I’m stoked about the new album.

#2) Young the Giant – “Apartment”

Some songs excel at creating a mood. When Young the Giant’s raspy vocals announce “I feel this cooooold inside me”, you can feel the chill he sings of. “Apartment” sets the stage for an amazing album, and I’ve been singing it intently for months now.

#1) The Shins – “Simple Song”

At this point, I don’t think it’s possible to dethrone “Simple Song” by year’s end. If it is dethroned, I’ll be the happiest music critic alive, because I want to here that song badly. Already a huge Shins fan, “Simple Song” hit me hard, combining all my favorite elements of everything I loved from them into pure perfection. It’s enough to make my choosy five-star song list, and it did so about as quick as any song since “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem did. In other words, it’s not just my favorite song of the year, we’re getting into personal favorite of all time territory here. And now that bar is set so high, you can be let down by listening to it! :-)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Lower Dens – “Brains” and “Propagation”
  • Imagine Dragons – “It’s Time” and “Radioactive”
  • Alex Clare – “Too Close”
  • Yeasayer – “Henrietta”
  • Craig Finn – “Rented Room”
  • Radiohead – “Staircase”
  • Grimes – “Genesis”
  • Lana Del Rey – “Off to the Races”
  • fun. – “Some Nights” and “Why Am I the One”
  • Regina Spektor – “All the Rowboats”
  • The Shins – “The Rifle’s Spiral” and practically the whole album
  • Opus Orange – “Crystal Clear

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Month’s Best Music

In case you’re looking for something new to grace your ears, here is the best stuff I’ve been listening to since my last check-in.

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Passion Pit – “Take a Walk”

Passion Pit is back! One of the most out-of-nowhere (for me) debut albums belong to Passion Pit, who got “Sleepyhead” permanently stuck in my head a couple years back. There first new release of their upcoming album gets me very excited for the future. It’s good loud!

Active Child – “Hanging On”

Every now and then a song comes along and grabs you when you don’t expect it. Active Child’s “Hanging On” is not much like most the music I enjoy, but it gets me every time. It’s very dreamy but still powerful. This must be the side of me that fell hard for M83’s last album creeping out again.

Lower Dens – “Brains”

I can’t say I’d heard of Lower Dens before May (bad blogger!), but I’m glad I found them now. Their album has a few real winners, and none is better than “Brains” with it’s pulsating percussion and building electronics.

Santigold – “Disparate Youth”

I’ve yet to give her new album a fair shake, but I can tell right away that “Disparate Youth” is the one that sticks out to me. She first endeared herself to me at Sasquatch 2009, and her first album blew me away. Now she’s back dropping awesome guitar riffs and blending her unique mix of styles that is uniquely Santigold.

Keane – “Starting Line”

Here’s a change of pace and a blast from the past all at once. Keane were lampooned by critics from the start as Coldplay rip-offs (and Coldplay didn’t always get nice treatment either), but I was always in the crowd that found something magical in their debut Hopes and Fears. Their next two albums were pretty average and my first listen to their newest left me shrugging, but the sunny, melodic nature of “The Starting Line” is sure to be enjoyed by anyone who could use a little pleasant sweetness in their lives.