Sunday, 26 August 2012

10 Great Sunny Day Songs

Sure it's the last week of August and the crisp mornings of Fall are already poking their noses in our business, but to me that still gives us plenty of time to enjoy the Sun at it's warmest. Grab a beer, grab a folding chair and stretch out in your back yard. By the pool. With some mates. On a patio wherever, and of course you need a great soundtrack to go with that. Here's 10 songs for bright sunny days.

1. "Reeling In The Years" - Steely Dan

Just that opening riff....makes me wish I was born in the 60's to be able to truly enjoy the sounds of the 70's.
There is going to be plenty of classic rock on this list just so you're all aware...and that's a good thing. Also, nobody believes me, but Chevy Chase was the original drummer in a band that eventually became Steely Dan. He left to pursue acting before they got anywhere, but he was there

2. "Sunny Days" - Lighthouse

Yes, this one is quite obvious, but if I didn't include a song about chilling in the sun listening to the radio, what am I doing? Lighthouse were a group from Canada not be confused with the British band Lighthouse Family or Lifehouse which came out of LA in the late 90's.

3. "Lay Me Down" - Dirty Heads

The Dirty Heads are a newer group out of Southern California that sort of pick up where a group like Sublime left off. That style of laid back, ocean side living really comes through in most of their punk and hip-hop inspired rock. This song actually features the artist known as Rome who is currently in an act with surviving members of Sublime.

4. "Shambala" - Three Dog Night

"Shambala" is a great song for those care free days. Toes in the grass, face in the warm sun, hair in the wind. The song is actually a cover of a B.W Stevenson song, but his version never charted or got noticed. Shambala is the name of a city in Buddhist legend that is supposed to be hidden among the Himilayan Mountains.

5. "All Summer Long" - The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys were unstoppable it seemed in the 60's. Fans latched on to their infectious songs featuring harmonized vocals, multi-layered instruments and of course the subject matter of nothing but fun in the sun. Sadly as band leader Brian Wilson's health (both mental and physical) deteriorated the band's success followed. As far as sunny day songs go, close your eye,s reach in and take your pick. Any one of them will work. "All Summer Long" just makes you feel good.

6. "Replay" - IYAZ

Admittedly the video helped this one, though I can't understand how he can be comfortable in shoes, jeans and that huge shirt in that kind of weather. She looks much more comfortable. Sure the song is a typical overproduced, repetitive, corporation friendly track from the mainstream song spawning machine, but if you look passed that, and it's Apple name dropping and take it at face value. It works as a fun background to a day at the beach or on the patio. Let's not take ourselves too seriously now...

7. "Jet Airliner" - Steve Miller Band

Another song where the opening riff is enough to get you in the Summer state of mind. As soon as it starts you know where this song is going to take you and it's a wonderful experience.

8. "Deadbeat Summer" - Neon Indian

Neon Indian are an indie/electro pop group from Texas. Their album Psychic Chasms  that was released in 2009 was well received by critics. It scored high on most music websites as well such as Pitchfork and Allmusic, even though it wasn't widely popular on mainstream charts. "Deadbeat Summer" features a sample of Todd Rundgren's "Izzat You?"

9. "Someday" - Sugar Ray

Sugar Ray were everywhere in the late 90's. So much so that they named their second album 14:59, figuring that their 15 minutes of fame would soon be at an end. "Someday" is a welcome departure to the band's typical light-hearted, half-pop, half-hip-hop mash-ups and seems to have a heart. It's more of a Summer evening song as the sun is going down...but it's there on the horizon so it still counts.

10. "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" - The Eagles

I'm not the biggest Eagles fan, they got lucky with "Hotel California" and have a bunch of mediocre rock tracks scattered here and there. I will say that Don Henley and company were skilled at writing chill, retrospective and relatable soft rock such as "Peaceful, Easy Feeling". A perfect song to finish off with. Pull those sunglasses down, lean back, get those feet up and forget about everything....except for that one person who still has a home in your mind. There it is...

Now get out there and enjoy the Sun!

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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

10 Great Songs With Animated Videos

The music video is quickly becoming a forgotten art form. In the 80's, 90's and early 2000's a video was a justifiable expense for a new artist. With the right video a lot of attention could be turned your way and that would translate into a bigger audience for your music. These days the main powerhouse of the video days of yesteryear seems to be more focused on entertainment news and reality tv than fresh videos of new artists. Thankfully there is still youtube to help see what musicians and artists can come up with and some of the more interesting ones, don't even feature the artist at all. Here are 10 great animated videos

1. "All Your Light (Times Like These)" - Portugal. The Man

Oregon's Portugal. The Man have been enjoying moderate success since their arrival in 2004. Their latest album In The Mountain In The Cloud had been their most successful to date and it includes the infectious track "All Your Light (Times Like These)" and though it's not the "official" video, the claymation offering from Justin Kramer and Lee Hardcastle is worth a mention just for it's captivating visual and obvious dedication to a lost art form.

2. "Would You Be Impressed?" - Streetlight Manifesto

From the ashes of 90's ska-punk legends Catch 22 comes Streetlight Manifesto, a gathering of New Jersey punk scene veterans and orchestra musicians. Though in this video they are portrayed by a lion, giraffe, koala, frog, penguin, bear and of course, a cat. Though animal lovers might be upset about the video at first, they'll be cheering at it's rousing conclusion.

3. "Nothing Like This" - J Dilla

I always enjoy it when a legendary producer comes out with an album. How many times the artist they are doing an album for gets all the glory, where it's actually the producer behind the true genius of the song or record? J. Dilla has worked on albums for Common, Busta Rymes, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, The Roots and Janet Jackson....just to name a few. He also was an accomplished musician and released many albums including 2003's Ruff Draft which had "Nothing Like This" a funky, trip hop song with a equally cool animated video. Sadly Dilla passed away in 2006 of heart failure, but his contributions to the hip-hop world will never be forgotten.

4. "White Corolla" - Casiotone For the Painfully Alone

One man band Owen Ashworth's work is better known under the bizarre pseudonym Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. "White Corolla" is a quirky little techno tune with an equally quirky video. There's something about these forlorn animals breaking out in a dance routine that just makes my day.

5. "Southbound Pachyderm" - Primus

Can't have a list of animated videos without including Primus. Artists these days should sit down and take note. Here's a band typically known for light hearted alt-rock tracks and funky bass riffs. Sure "Southbound Pachyderm" is about elephants, but the video fits the haunting mood of the song perfectly. I dare say flawless. Sure there are a few shots of the band, but they're bullshit postering, no gratuitous cleavage or ass shots, no examples of their limitless wealth. I miss videos that actually had thought and effort put into them and provoked creative thinking.

6. "Hearts A Mess" - Gotye

What a Gotye song that isn't "Somebody That I Used To Know"? This one is from his 2006 release Like Drawing Blood which didn't chart quite so well over here in North America, maybe because some bastard cover band didn't jump down this song's throat and perform it with 5 people on one guitar. The video for "Hearts A Mess" has a Tim Burton-esque vibe to it achieve through computer animation and a dark tone, which suits the isolated and desperate tone of the song.

7. "Tool" - Sober

Tool were one of those bands that absolutely despised making music videos. I suppose they felt they wanted to distance themselves from the MTV stereotype as much as possible and when it came down to it, filming a video can be tedious and repetitive. Boring if you will. So Tool went another direction and made uniquely visual videos that fit their music swimmingly. "Sober" was one of the first claymation videos to receive heavy rotation and has earned classic status in this modern age.

8. "On Melancholy Hill" - The Gorillaz

How can I have a list of animated videos without including an animated band? The Gorillaz are the brainchild of Blur's frontman Damian Albarn. A completely digital and fictional band know for holographic performances and a long twisted back story to go with their musically diverse albums. Plastic Beach was the 3rd album for The Gorillaz and featured a plethora of guest artists. I won't get into the flavoured past of the band's fictional members, but from the video it appears this song is at the beginning of what will no doubt be an epic journey.

9. "Heaven Sent" - Esthero

Canada's beautiful Esthero's debut track had a hauntingly beautiful video to go along with it. Though not fully animated it mixed video footage with animation and used camera trickery to make it appear like an old silent film. It deserves a nod

10. "One Man Wrecking Machine" - Guster

My favourite song off of what is quickly becoming my favourite album of the last decade has perhaps one of the most uniquely animated videos. Yarn animation. "One Man Wrecking Machine" is simply wonderful, an easy melody that gets locked inside your head and a video that is impossible to turn away from.

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Monday, 13 August 2012

10 Obscure Songs From The 90's

If you're around the same age as me then you remember the 90's as a period where you could switch on the radio or tv and be bombarded by countless great songs. They'd find you, you wouldn't have to find them. If you're younger than me than you probably wish you were coming into your music loving years in the 90's. Sure there were terrible songs released in that decade, but for the most part looking back is filled with fondness. Here's 10 songs that maybe got passed your radar or maybe they didn't, but they definitely weren't being featured on Much Music's hit list. Yes, they once played music...

1. REM - "E-Bow The Letter"

I know what you're saying. "REM are not an obscure band" No they are not, but they are one of those quasi popular groups who had many many great songs and relatively few singles. New Adventures In Hi-Fi is probably their one album that produced the fewest marketable tracks, but it's fantastic. "E-Bow The Letter" is said to be portions of a letter that Michael Stipe was writing to River Phoenix before he died. Sadly River never did get to hear the song, thankfully we all can.

2. Guano Apes - "Open Your Eyes"

The first track from Proud Like A God, Germany's Guano Apes' debut record, comes out of the blocks on full blitzkrieg mode and buries itself into the listener's head. Guano Apes formed in the late 90's and released a few more successful albums in the 2000s. Though their popularity never really caught on in North America, their songs are worth a listen. Especially for those thirsty for new (old) songs.

3. Dig - "Believe"

Dig came from the rock scene that took off in LA in the early 90's. There's not much else to know about Dig sadly. In the 90's it wasn't as easy to get info on a band like it is these days. "Believe" did get airplay and charted, but unless you noticed it immediately, it probably got buried in your past. Maybe this will awake some ghosts in your head. Apparently Dig are working on a new record! Let's hope it maintains the mentality of their first effort!

4. They Might Be Giants - "Birdhouse In Your Soul"

Most people know They Might Be Giants from their song "Boss Of Me" which was used in the opening of tv's Malcolm In The Middle. "Birdhouse In Your Soul" is a wonderful pop offering that was released in 1990. Before the whole Alternative Rock thing took off and TMBG were still wrestling to get noticed among hair bands and hangers-on to the 80's techno pop crowd.

5. Del Amitri - "Always The Last To Know"

Typically thought of as only a one hit wonder from the 90's for the pretty little ditty "Roll To Me" Del Amitri also play this i-know-it-but-who-sings it track "Always The Last To Know". It may not have charted very high in the US, but in their native Scotland their fans are very aware of Del Amitri's back catalog. It's a great song and I sympathize with him.....right until the very end of the song...not sure you have much of a case anymore pally.

6. Ween - "Voodoo Lady"

Dean and Gene Ween. Either you get themo or you don't. Ween are another one of those groups with a large following and many fans. A long history of songs and albums, but very little mainstream attention. Their music could be called experimental, brilliant or it could be called ludicrous, depending on who you ask. "Voodoo Lady" might be one of their most radio friendly tracks, but even then it stands out in a crowd. I used to own a Ween shirt....what ever happened to that..

7. The Rheostatics - "Bad Time To Be Poor"

Maybe not obscure to Canadian music fans, but im not sure how far the tales of the Rheostatics reached across the world. A power house of songwriting ability and talent, "Bad Time To Be Poor" is almost 90's music in a perfect peanut shell. Many Canadian groups borne in the 90's site The Rheostatics as a main source of inspiration and wonder. Take a listen, you'll see why.

8. Forest For The Trees - "Dream"

Perhaps Forest For The Trees' tenure was merely a dream. They released one album in 1997 with the single "Dream" getting it's video played in both US and Canada, then they vanished. Perhaps their scattered trip-hop/trance/acid rock blend was a little too much even for the post grunge world in the late 90's. Either way we have "Dream".

9. Artificial Joy Club - "Sick & Beautiful"

Anyone who watched Much Music all the time in about 1997-1998 will remember Canada's Artificial Joy Club. Another short lived alt rock combo who's singer had roots in the girl group pop scene. This is again what 90's rock was all about though...high energy, ambiguous sexuality and catchy, quirky hooks and lyrics. Almost completely randomized. But delightful!

10. King Cobb Steelie - "Rational"

I remember the video for this song had it called "Rationale" but on the back of the CD it's spelled as such, with no E. Kind of changes the tone of the song slightly, but either way what an opus. It's industrial rock, with a bluesy bass riff. Political and social lyrics. It's dream-like, ethereal and ubiquitous. Even once it's over you seem to carry a piece of it with you.

Couldn't get that video to work properly, but check it out anyway. Well worth it!

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