Monday, 30 April 2012

12 Great Acoustic Songs (Male Version)

For the most part the first instrument a contemporary musician picks up is the acoustic guitar. Nestled in the corner of a young man's room; Brought out for parties to impress certain ladies or sadly strummed to exorcise the demons within. It's honest and relatable. Here are 10...nah make it 12 Great Acoustic songs by male artists.

1. Dustin Kensrue - "Pistol"

If you're a fan of Thrice then you recognize this name and voice. Dustin Kensrue doubles as the vocals and rhythm guitarist for the Orange County punk group. While "Pistol" features a full backing band it's an acoustic song at it's core that could be just as easily played on the corner of a bed and sung into a microphone plugged into an old desktop computer.

2. William Fitzsimmons - "When You Were Young"

Though his songs have been featured in popular TV shows like Grey's Anatomy, William Fitzsimmons has yet to make a large splash in the music scene. I'm sure if you asked his opinion on that he'd be 100% fine with it.
With a relaxing voice and withdrawn guitar playing "When You Were Young" is a song that can capture you for it's almost 6 minute duration and make you feel like it passed in an eye's blink.

3. Hayden - "Between Us To Hold"

I can't do an acoustic list without including Canada's great Hayden. A song written on an acoustic guitar about teaching your girlfriend to play an acoustic guitar. It's his gift in creating beautiful songs out of seemingly everyday and benign occurrences that makes Hayden one of my favourites.

4. Nick Drake - "Things Behind The Sun"

Except for the brief piano on the title track, Nick Drake's masterpiece Pink Moon was simply his voice and his guitar. It's solemn and dreary atmosphere was a direct reflection of his heightening depression he suffered during his last years. "Things Behind The Sun" is a stream of consciousness that seems to be describing what Drake had taken away from his brief interactions with the outside world in that dark time. Sadly Nick would never live to see his music reach fame as he would die in 1974 after overdosing on sleeping pills. 2 years after Pink Moon was released and almost 25 years before his songs would find a worldwide audience.

5. Dashboard Confessional - "The Best Deceptions"

Dashboard Confessional is Chris Carrabba, his 2001 album The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most is viewed as one of the first emo/acoustic albums. He made a living off of wearing his heart on his sleeve and belting out his pain from the mountain tops in every song. This poor guy. Just listen to some of the lyrics in this one...heart out the asshole I tell ya...heart out the asshole.

6.  Eddie Vedder - "No More"

I don't know much about the history of this song. I first heard it when I watched Vedder's DVD Water On The Road where he performed most of his Into The Wild album and various other one offs at Warner Theatre in Washington DC. It's nice to hear a protest song from time to time.

7. Wyclef Jean - "President"

That last song made me think of other protest songs in recent history and how could I omit this gem? Like most people I first saw Wyclef perform this one on Chappelle's Show. It's an incredible and honest song hypothesizing about the first black president of the United States. It was later released on his fifth album Welcome To Haiti (Creole 101).

8. Tom Gabel - "Harsh Realm"

Sometimes you'll see the lead singer of a group branch off and release their own solo CD. Happens quite often actually and most times the album sounds like just another record of the band they're from. Tom Gabel, front man of Against Me! released Heart Burns in 2008 and it mostly flew under the radar. It only had 7 tracks on it, it cost about 8 bucks and it was outstanding. Each track was different from the last. Tom actually started Against Me as himself. A young punk from Gainesville with an acoustic guitar. I guess Heart Burns could be considered him getting back to his roots.

9. Cat Stevens - "Rubylove"

One of the most prolific and entertaining singer/songwriters of the early 70's was Cat Stevens (real name Steve Georgiou). The things he could do with a guitar and the imagery he could conjure with his word play was unparalleled. "Rubylove" is a lesser known track from his perfect album Teaser & The Firecat. My father had this record I can remember it's cover and it's sounds being played endlessly. Cat Steven's left the musical spotlight just as oddly as he entered. Converted to Islam and changed his name...again...but that's a list for another night

10. Joe Purdy - "I Love The Rain The Most"

Joe Purdy's album Julie Blue has quickly become one of my favourites...and definitely was a difficult one to track down a copy of. The whole album was written and recording in under a week in a house on a river in upstate NY. It's good to know there are artists who are brave enough to try something different. Whether it's successful or not I bet it's an experience and a feeling Purdy will never duplicate. I listen to this song when it gives me chills...good ones....

11. Joshua James - "Dangerous"

Here's another up and comer...though he's already got a few albums under his belt. "Dangerous" can play in my head all day and it's stillness and isolation almost make me rethink every action i've ever done or contemplate doing. It's a beautiful song in it's simplicity and honesty. I look forward to more from Mr. James.

12. Damien Rice - "Delicate"

Damien Rice is a man that must have experienced or been hit by love that few men have seen. His album O is art pure and simple. "Delicate" builds to it's passionate nadir effortlessly and really exemplifies not only the relationship in the song, but the relationship between Rice and his guitar. I was lucky to see Damien Rice on his farewell tour in 2007. An experience i will never forget.

Thanks for reading again!!

It's the ladies' turn next!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

10 Great Second Part Songs

We've all seen it occasionally at the end of a song "Part 2". Huh? Where was part one? Will this second part not make sense to me anymore? What kind of uncreative bullshit is this? Whatever your reaction is, these songs are out there. Whether they are remixes, continuations and part of a longer story or just a version the artist liked better i give you 10 great second part songs

1. "Vermillion, pt. 2" - Slipknot

Taken from their third album Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses where the first "Vermillion" is also found. The two songs seem to be describing an obsessed man describing the target of his desire. The first part is more metal infused, more typical of Slipknot. "Vermillion, pt 2" is softer, more sombre and acoustic. Perhaps the protagonist is mourning a loss...great track.

2. "Synchronicity II" - The Police

Perhaps my favourite Police song. The album this delight is off of is also called Synchronicity. It describes the coincidences between two separate occurrances, and deals with a few paranormal the Loch Ness Monster. "Synchronicity I" was the first track on the album and is a completely different song.

3. "The Seed 2.0" - The Roots

Another Roots sighting! "The Seed" was originally a song by soul musician Cody Chesnutt. The Roots added their own flair to it but also included Cody on vocals and guitar, making it a perfect blend of hip-hop and soulful rock n' roll. To this day it's one of The Roots most well known songs since being released in 2001.

4. "Empire State Of Mind pt. 2" - Alicia Keys

I have a feeling I may be alone on this one, but I enjoy "Empire State Of Mind pt. 2" much better than part one.  I know the version with Jay-Z was much more popular and became a quasi-anthem to New York City, but there's a sheltered beauty in Keys' solo offering. They say that New York is the city that never sleeps, but i'm sure you can still find a place where it feels quiet and alone. Take a minute to absorb this one.

5. "The Unforgiven II" - Metallica

This one was not actually intended to be a sequel. When James Hetfield was writing songs for the upcoming double disc to be released in 1996, he realized he had plagarized the intro of 1991's "The Unforgiven" on one track. Then he realized that he can't really plagarize himself, so he tweaked the and "The Unforgiven II" was born. Other similarities were done intentionally like the trumpet swell intro, several lyrics and even hiring the same director for the music video. It doesn't end there though kids 2008's Death Magnetic brought us the awesome "Unforgiven III" but that's another entry on another list....

6. "Helena 2" - Misfits

This is just an alternate mix of the song "Helena" by the Graves-era Misfits. The intro was altered in post to sound like it's being transmitted through a radio. The idea was the listener would crank the volume and have your speakers blown out by the sudden surge of instruments at the halfway mark. Awesome prank guys, my fuckin' stereo is blown to shit now...

7. "Why, pt. 2" - Collective Soul

Released in 2000 on the album Blender this song came when Collective Soul were starting to drift out of the center stage position they definitely held in the 90's. Great song, don't get me wrong, just didn't hold the same water that some of their earlier songs did. Not sure what became of "Why, pt.1" maybe this song should have been called "Where's pt. 1?" ahaha...maybe that comment made you just say 'What?".....part 2

8. "Midnight Show" - The Killers

This is the first song on the list that part of a continuing story. The Killer's Murder Trilogy is a story about the murder of a cheating girlfriend. Brandon Flowers has hinted that the death had something to do with water, but he's not saying exactly what. The other songs in the trilogy are "Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine" (part 3) and "Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf" (part 1) which was actually released in 2007, three years after parts 2 & 3.

9. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" - The Arcade Fire

Most Arcade Fire songs can weave multiple tales effortlessly which require multiple hearings to be fully respected and enjoyed. "Sprawl II" is about the similarity of the hometowns of the band members. Houston and Montreal. Wherever in the world you go you can't get away from the rising skylines along almost every continent's shores. "Sprawl I (Flatland)" is similar but tells of how people can make a location stay in your memory, not necessarily the place.

10. "Another Brick In The Wall part 2" - Pink Floyd

Perhaps the most famous part 2 ever, potentially the most famous Pink Floyd song as well. Granted 1980's The Wall was one long story of a man's rise and fall in super stardom and his depression and haunted past slowly bricking him off from the rest of the world. The 3 "brick in the wall segments are all worth a listen as the whole album is a revolution, but none gained as much fame as part 2. If you don't eat your meat you can't have any pudding...

Thanks for for part 2 of this list!

Just kidding...


Monday, 9 April 2012

Living Legends: 10 Great Tom Waits Songs

Tom Waits has been one of my favourites for a long time. It's been difficult to share my enjoyment of his music with many others however, one does not simply bump into a fan of the King of the Fringe on the road. Waits has been making music since the 70's and has had many of his songs covered and recorded by other reknown artists. He's been an actor, an artist, an activist and a humanitarian. Here now in the 2nd installment of the Living Legends. 10 great Tom Waits songs.

1. "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You"

From Tom's first album Closing Time this simple yet beautiful piece is a shining example of Waits' style. While he had yet to develop his trademark bourbon growl, the isolated, timid and heartstrong hero of "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You" is the kind of audience his music would attract and i'm sure most of his songs' origins are rooted in similar situations that he describes here.

2. "Hold On"

Tom Waits sometimes seems like he is a mere chamber, a holding place for beautiful music to be kept. Songs written by angels and a placed inside of him until the proper time to be released. "Hold On" was kept inside Tom until 1999's Mule Variations, a song everyone enjoys...unless they're lying.

3. "Clap Hands"

Rain Dogs is perhaps Tom Waits' best known album. It's part 2 of 3 of an ongoing story with his other albums Swordfishtrombones and Frank's Wild Years. It features songs of all types and styles and the lyrics flow like a murder of crows. "Clap Hands" itself is almost like a nursery rhyme for lost souls. Lovely.

4. "Hell Broke Luce"

Waits was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. The same year he released Bad As Me. He was inducted by Neil Young, and obviously has the respect of artists of all walks of life. "Hell Broke Luce" features Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass and Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones on guitar.

5. "Big In Japan"

Just a straight up great track by the man. Kick off song on Mule Variations. Speaks to his courage to not be married to one type of music. Tom Waits has acted in several movies as well "Mystery Men", "The Book Of Eli", "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus" where he played the devil. He could very well be big in Japan.

6. "I Don't Wanna Grow Up"

This could be his most well known song...if only for the strange music video accompanying it. It was covered by The Ramones on their farewell album Adios Amigos.

7.  "Step Right Up"

Waits is notorious for not allowing his music to be used in commercials or programs without his permission. He has won many lawsuits against companies that have used his songs or sound-a-likes to promote their products. Frito Lay used a song that borrowed from Waits' song "Step Right Up". Waits sued and won. Like usual he donated his winnings to charity.

8. "The Piano Has Been Drinking"

This song has been called the archetypal Waits song and praised for it's depiction of life on the road and the toll it takes. The staggering piano playing is intentional and weaves the tale of a drunkard slinging insults at all the other patrons and blaming his intoxicated state on everyone and everything else. Even the inanimate objects aren't safe in this one, like the piano in it's title.

9. "Jockey Full Of Bourbon"

Another great track off of Rain Dogs. The jockey refers to a cabdriver, in this case a drunken one.

10. "Downtown Train"

"Downtown Train" has been covered many times over by multiple artists including Patty Smyth, Rod Stewart and Bob Seger. These versions have overshadowed the original in many cases, but I feel they lack the desperation and lunacy that made Waits' song so endearing. It's about more than just a train, it's about one in a million. It's about being betrayed by your surroundings and your own mind. Someone once asked me when I became a Tom Waits fan, I told her "When I first heard "Downtown Train" and was reduced to tears"

Thank you Tom