Tuesday, 29 March 2011

10 Great Driving Songs

I love to drive. I feel I missed my calling as a professional stunt driver or Nascar competitor. There's nothing like getting out on the highway and meditating in the wind, and of course having the perfect soundtrack riding shotgun. I can cruise to any tunes, this is true, but some songs seem born to be played through a dashboard. These aren't specifically songs about driving, but rather songs with the pillars and pistons on drums and bass.

1. The Gaslight Anthem - "Old White Lincoln"

I could have included any track off of 2008's The '59 Sound. That whole album is a must when I go on a long roadtrip. All the songs are about cars and chicks to begin with, but theres something about this song in particular that can hypnotize you and send you back to those warm summer nights of your youth. The kind of liberation that also comes with hitting the highway with the top down.

2. Third Eye Blind - "Anything"

The often forgotten first single off 3EB's sophomore album Blue. It's got the right energy and pacing to be a great driving song. It's also just about 2 minutes long which makes listening to it multiple times in a single trip a forgiveable (and delightful) sin.

3. The Classic Crime - "Gravedigging"

New comers The Classic Crime offer this delicious track. Featured on the Vans Warped Tour 2009 CD, I picture a chase scene from a movie when I play this track.

4. Sniff 'N The Tears - "Driver's Seat"

This one is definitely about and for driving. A classic from 1978 it was also used well in Boogie Nights. "Driver's Seat" calls back to a simpler time when youths would pile into a car and cruise around with no destination, before the instant availabilty of information. Come what may. Still stands up to today's standards.

5. Staggered Crossing - "Further Again"

Canadian group Staggered Crossing appeared on the horizon with this infectious track. Definitely written with Canada's endless highways in mind, mentioning truck stops, the 115 and the inconquerable hwy 401. I expected great things from these guys, but they seemed to fade away. Beside's 2004's "Perfect Prize" I haven't heard anything else by Staggered Crossing.

6. Geto Boys - "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta"

Not all great driving songs have to be high energy and explosive, some can be used to show those you live life at a different pace. "...Gangsta" is one of those songs that makes you wanna lean back in your seat, rest your arm out the window of your lowrider and take your time with where your going, which is nobody's business but your own. I'm sure most know this one from Office Space, if not please stop reading this blog now, go out and rent, buy, do whatever you have to do to get a copy of that movie and watch it. I'll wait for you.

7. Deep Purple - "Highway Star"

Another classic driving song. I think most people can recognize the tune of this song, but not everyone knows which song it comes from. It's got that kind of addictive hook that burrows into people's psyche and it's been used in multiple movies and even a few video games.

8. Queens Of The Stone Age - "Go With The Flow"

There's no way I couldn't include this one, even though this isn't the Top 10 Driving Songs list, just couldn't resist. It's debatable as to what this song is actually about, but from start to finish the energy never lets up and the pounding snare drum is the perfect soundtrack to shifting gears and changing lanes. Excellent video as well.

9. Theory Of A Deadman - "Better Off"

From the aptly named 2005 album Gasoline, this is another song that has nothing to do with driving, but suits the mood perfectly. I almost wrote these guys off as Nickelback clones, but with this album they steered away from making the same record twice, which I can respect.

10. Bush - "Machinehead"

And finally another no-brainer. Here in Canada when these guys came out they were known to us as Bush X, because another group was already using Bush here. Thankfully they settled that and Gavin Rosdale and the boys dropped the X. "Machinehead" has great riffs, great energy and it just conjures up so many great memories of a time when great music was everywhere you looked. The kind of feeling a good long drive can bring you as well.

Thanks for reading, JZ

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

10 Great Songs Without Lyrics

It's almost a lost art in this day and age to release a song or two without the seemingly compulsory lyrics. Popular music seems to steer away from instrumentals leaving it to jazz or club music. Song is a great podium to speak your mind. Music can carry messages to all corners of the Earth. It is a great skill, however to use just music instead of words to motivate, inspire or merely tell a story. Here are 10 great tracks with the singer on a coffee break.

1. Ashley MacIsaac - "Brenda Stubbert"

1995's Hi, How Are You Today? exploded on the Canadian music scene, introducing the masses to a unique blend of east-coast fiddle music and contempary rock. MacIsaac had a few guest vocalists appear on the album at the time, but the majority was Ashley and his band letting the instruments do the talking. "Brenda Stubbert" is a catchy little number that also packs a pretty punch.

2. Jason Forrest - "War Photographer"

I almost got real selfish on you all here. This song was one of my favourite, secret all time discoveries, but it's too good not to include here. 5 stars. A plus. Perfect ten. Whatever ranking scale you want this one delivers on all fronts. The video is amazing too. A reimagining, if you will, of "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat and Tears, but I didn't catch on until the end. Enjoy!

3. Metallica - "Orion"

Greatly considered to be the late Cliff Burton's swan song, "Orion" is a step by step blueprint of how to convey emotion through music. It has verses, choruses, a bridge and multiple solos, but not a single word. Taken from their perfect album Master Of Puppets, to this day it remains one of my all time favourites.

4. Pink Floyd - "The Great Gig In The Sky"

Pink Floyd have a few instrumentals to choose from, but I think "The Great Gig In The Sky" is a special moment in history. Floyd knew they had something revolutionary in the works with 1973's Dark Side Of The Moon and with this track they brought in vocalist Clare Torrey. She was played a moving piano track and asked to add vocals to it. Roger Waters apparently told her to sing about death without using words. The result is simply beautiful.

5. Fleetwood Mac - "Albatross"

Before Stevie Nicks, before Rumours, before all the mainstream success, Fleetwood Mac had Peter Green. Green was a visionary on the guitar and had a great hand in Fleetwood Mac's ability to stand out among rock groups of the late 60's. "Albatross" showcases his styles and ingenuity wonderfully. Sadly Green was diagnosed with schizophrenia attributed to heavy drug use and was confined to a mental hospital for many years.

6. Oasis - "Fucking In The Bushes"

The opening track for Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants, and i'm not sure if i'm cheating here or not. This song contains words, but they seem to be samples from movies rather than sung lyrics. They definitely aren't the voices of Liam or Noel Gallagher. Fuck it. This is my list. It's on here.

7. Daft Punk - "Da Funk"

Ahh the confusion when this song was released. "No the band is called Da Funk and the song is called "Daft Punks!" 1996 was a simpler time. Though who could predict what a juggernaut of the electronic scene Daft Punk would turn out to be. This song lives up to it's name with the funk guitar riff that permeates through the entire track.

8. Buckethead - "Jordan"

With a catalogue of hundreds of songs spread out over 30 albums, Buckethead's contributions to the music world would be a crime not to mention. Yes he wears a KFC bucket on his head and yes he spent some time with Guns n' Roses, but he is a master of the electric guitar. "Jordan" brings his skill to center stage and that stage is soaring through space and backwards in time.

9. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Pretty Little Ditty"

A short, funky and GREAT little instrumental off 92's Mother's Milk. This song gained renewed fame in 1999 when Crazy Town sampled the middle riff for their hit song "Butterfly".

10. Huevos Rancheros - "What A Way To Run A Railroad"

I'll end this week's list with a pulse pounder. Huevos Rancheros were notorious for their quick tempoed surf music, even though they are from Calgary, Alberta. This song definitely has that chase-scene-in-a-movie feel, which is played up in the music video.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

10 Great Drinking Songs

Happy St. Patrick's Day all!! For whatever reason this day has become synonymous with getting totally shittered. I Figured i'd shed some light on a few tracks to give you all a great soundtrack for your loose and liquored day. Now these aren't in any order and aren't necessarily songs ABOUT drinking, rather great songs to DRINK to. Evil Shennanigans!!

1. Mudmen - "5 O'Clock"

A great song to drink to on any day of the year. My fellow country men really get the message right, it's never too early to kick the night off with a pint. Something about bagpipes and violins that really set the mood as well.

2. Flogging Molly - "Salty Dog"

Anything by these guys could really be on this list. Formed in California with Irish roots, Flogging Molly's live performances are always lubricated with whiskey and Guinness. You don't need to know the words here, just grab your stein and jig the night away.

3. Mischief Brew - "Roll Me Through The Gates Of Hell"

Erik Peterson and his band of anarcho-punks bring us this tasty tune. It was the theme to my 28th birthday party, a night I don't remember much of. A great song to gather your lads around in a smokey bar, fill up yer mugs, and scream it 'til you chunder.

4. Spirit Of The West - "Home For A Rest"

I'd be remissed if I failed to include this one. I think we've all had a vacation like the one described here: get home from a "relaxing" trip only to find we've forgotten to relax. I think the flutes really makes this one as legendary as it is. My prediction: You hear this one at least 4 times tonight.

5. Grateful Dead - "Mexicali Blues"

Little bit of a left turn here as The Grateful Dead are typically put on while partaking in other mind-altering substances, but you can't ignore the potential here. Everytime this track comes on I wish I was somewhere with a bottle of tequila getting torched under a mid-Summer's sun. Here's a live version from 1981, but check out the album version too.

6. The New Pornographers - "My Slow Descent Into Alcoholism"

This is the perfect backdrop to a night of blind partying. It's got a light, happy-go-lucky feel. The exact escape i'm looking for when I turn to the bottle, that's for sure.

7. Against Me! - "Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong"

This is actually a song about eternal love. A woman's young husband dies on St Patrick's Day and she never loves again for the rest of her days. Definitely a cautionary tale about the dangers that could come from over-indulgence. The first line in that chorus just begs to be screamed at the top of your lungs though "And just like James i'm drinking Irish tonight!!!"

8. Hayden - "Tree's Lounge"

Written for the Steve Buscemi flick of the same name, "Tree's Lounge" is one of those "Comfort in a bottle" songs. Definitely not a feel-good, party track. Still incredible though. Also within the lyrics are some of the best stakes to a drinking game i've ever heard.

9. Murder By Death - "Brother"

All these guys sing about is drinking, so I figured they'd make a good inclusion. I love the singer's voice, almost like a darker version of Johnny Cash. To me songs like this conjure up images of old-timey salloons.

10. Dropkick Murphy's - "Fightstarter Karaoke"

And finally liquid courage in song form. Another American band with quasi-Irish roots, again I could have put any Murphy's song on here and been content with it. But we haven't really had a drunken fight song yet, so here she is. For the longest time I thought this song was called "Riot Tonight"

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

10 Songs That Will Get You Pumped

Music has many functions. I plan on touching on the vast uses of song and lyric through the course of this blog, but for my initial entry i've got to get the blood flowing. For me it's usually before I step on to the field of a sporting event. Some people blast music before heading to the club. Others simply need it to get going on a Monday morning. These are songs that will get you pumped.

1. Ash - "Meltdown"

Ireland's Ash is known for their alt-rock and grunge roots.  2004's "Meltdown" produced this unrelenting sound assault. Driving bass, chord crunching guitars and the chorus' "I think my head is gonna explode" repetition can provide any wild night or action-filled day with the appropriate backdrop.

2. Coheed & Cambria - "A Favor House Atlantic"

Perhaps Coheed's best known track. I love how the energy level remains constant from start to finish, no time for a break down. Forget the stories behind Coheed & Cambria's songs for now. Just put this on, crank it and repeat.

3. Metallica - "Battery"

You might start to see a trend here. Heavy metal pumps me up, what can I say? Some people need rap or classic rock, but when I hear a great metal track I can't help myself. Metallica has many great ones to select from, but 1986's "Battery" edges out the rest. There's nothing else to say, just have a listen. Ball.

4. Slipknot - "Duality"

2005's Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses took a while to grow on me, partly due to the fact that Slipknot's previous record Iowa is one of my all time favourites. "Duality" seems like it was written with soley the fans in mind. Love the tension that builds throughout the song, and that loud *ping* you hear between heavy guitar downstrokes is a baseball bat connecting with a keg. Fuck yeah!

5. TV On The Radio - "Wolf Like Me"

These guys are great. have yet to hear a track by them that I don't enjoy. "Wolf Like Me" has got some great lyrics, but more fitting with this list, a chugging bassline thats constant throughout the song and great outro that picks up right after a short breakdown...surely added to let the sweating masses catch their collective breath. I love the energy they bring to their live shows too, here they are on Letterman.

6. Fluke - "Absurd"

From the first second of this track it's infectious groove seems to hypnotize me and i'm a industrial spewing zombie for the next 3 and a half minutes. Some of you might recognize this song as the one Jessica Alba girates to in Sin City.

7. The Pimps - "Rocket Science"

Not much is known about this band from Rockford, IL but this song will find a home in your head. It was included on the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack, the one good thing about that movie, and thats how I came to know it. Haven't heard anything else by these guys, but if "Rocket Science" is any indication then I would be a very interested party.

8. Against Me! - "From Her Lips To God's Ears (The Energizer)"

This song is called The Energizer for God's sake. Written a few years back in response to the US Government's unwillingness to address the unrest in the Middle East.  Another one of those tracks that maintains the same pace throughout. Tom Gabel's got a gift with lyrics, anything he wants to say he'll say it. Whether it rhymes or whatever, he'll find a way to fit it in there.

9. Evan's Blue - "A Cross And A Girl Named Blessed"

Just when you think a great song like this can't get any greater, the machine-gun double kick peddle of the drums erupts at the end of the song. I'll never forget the first time I heard this song...it blew my already blown head.

10. Throwdown - "Burn"

There is no let up from this track and I wouldn't have it any other way to end my first list of many.  Something tells me I wouldn't want to be in Dave Peters' bad books.