THE ALBUM OF THE MONTH:
Goodbye Blue Monday, by Jeremy Fisher
Canada’s Fisher is a fresh voice on the scene with a sound that falls somewhere between folk and acoustic pop. The opening track “Scar That Never Heals” recalls Simon & Garfunkel’s “Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and Simon-esque songwriting percolates throughout the album. Fisher proves his mettle as he moves from free-wheeling summer playground beats (“American Girls”) to cold winter night’s stroll through the streets of Greenwich Village (“Jolene”) with refreshing ease. Stand-out tracks include “Cigarette,” which playfully compares a relationship with cigarette addiction (“I’ll be your cigarette, light me up and get on with it… good or bad I’m just your habit.”) and the political “Lay Down (Ballad of Rigoberto Alpizar)” which explores the fatal shooting of a Costa-Rican born US Citizen by two Federal air marshals in Miami Airport.
Kill to Get Crimson, by Mark Knopfler
Knopfler is a powerful role model for musicians today. He long ago learned that speed and noise are no substitute for an ability to weave a lyrical and musical tale. Knopfler uses restraint as a weapon; his magnificently deliberate guitar style is as moving as it is recognizable. Kill to Get Crimson finds Knopfler in fine form as he strolls through a gentle collection of songs rooted in English folk ballads. “Heart Full of Holes” might as well have been called “The Bartender’s Lament” as the protagonist quietly reflects on both his patrons’ lives and his own while “Punish the Monkey” weaves a bruising commentary on corporate politics against a bongo-driven beat, “the boss has hung you out to dry and it looks as though they’ll punish the monkey and let the organ grinder go.”
If You’re Gonna Leave, Emerson Hart (from the EMI Manhattan release Cigarettes and Gasoline)
Hart owned top 40 radio back in 1997 with his band Tonic’s hit “If You Could Only See.” Ten years down the road his penchant for crafting earnest rock songs hasn’t faltered on this satisfying release. “If you’re gonna leave, you better get going,” he declares on this restrained rocker, “’cause I ain’t wasting no more time on what might have been.” This track and several others have burrowed their way under my skin.
Close Call, Rilo Kiley (from the Warner Brothers release Under the Blacklight)
On this track — and throughout their latest release — Rilo Kiley explore the seedy side of Los Angeles with a funky 1980’s groove. “Funny thing about money for sex, you might get rich but you’ll die by it.”
If You Don’t Know By Now, The Office (from the New Line/Scratchie release A Night at the Ritz)
Another 1980’s throw-back, this time with a retro-alternative rock and pop feel. The Chicago quintet are the life of the party with a jumpy and precise beat underpinning a catchy chorus.
I’m Not Over You, Mike Viola (Candy Butchers) (from the long lost 1996 release Candy Butchers)
Mike Viola is a pop genius. His “Just Before Dark,” a collection of dark and intricate pop songs recorded live at LA club Largo, made my best of 2006 list last year. Now comes the long lost Candy Butcher’s debut record, never released due to the record label’s bankruptcy but now available via Viola’s mySpace page. This track (and its album companions) hearken back to the classic early years of pop with simple yet timeless melodies played by acoustic guitar and strings. Viola’s pristine vocals convey the perfect sense of longing as he sings, “I know we’re through but I’m not over you.”
Flashlight Fight, The Go! Team (from the Sub Pop release Proof of Youth)
Not quite in the Twangville mode but a killer track nonetheless. The Go Team come to party with a potent mash-up of funky beats, electric guitars and hip-hop vocals. This track features none other than the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy.
Rags ‘n’ Run, Admiral Freebee (from the 2003 release Admiral Freebee)
I first heard Belgium’s Admiral last fall while visiting Europe. While I’m not sure why I didn’t pick up a disc then, the name has stuck with me. I finally scored his 2003 release and its been in rotation all month. Freebee’s voice and musical style most resemble Karl Wallinger (World Party), most noticeably on this ballad rich with sorrowful emotion.
Beautiful, Elvis Costello (from the Nettwerk release House M.D. Original Television Soundtrack)
Elvis Costello delivers a percussion and bass-driven cover of the Christina Aguilera hit, further cementing his reputation as one of the most impressive and eclectic musicians performing today.
Freak Me Out, Bleu/The Blizzard of ’05 (from the self-released The Blizzard of ’05)
Trapped in the studio during a major blizzard during the winter of 2005, Bleu and his band did what came naturally: they recorded an album. You can hear the cabin fever in the urgent beat packaged in the slick guitar-driven pop that is Bleu’s trademark.
Suckerpunched, Watershed (from the Idol Records release Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust 2)
In the self-styled tradition of Kiss Alive 2, Cheap Trick’s Live at Budakon 2 and Frampton Comes Alive 2 comes Watershed’s latest live release. Recorded live in the band’s hometown of Columbus Ohio, Watershed delivers a raucous set of arena rock in the Bon Jovi tradition, or least until Bon Jovi went country. The show opens with a classic tale of love lost, “What a knock-out, I didn’t even know that we were fighting, you tell me that we’re breaking up, I’m blindsided oh I feel like I’ve been sucker-punched.”
See the World, Gomez (from the Nettwerk release House M.D. Original Television Soundtrack)
Another from the House soundtrack. I’ve never fully appreciated these pop masters although I can’t say that I’ve really sought out their music. I’ll be rectifying that now. This is a delightful and uplifting melody that is the perfect antidote for House’s gruff personality.
Love’s Long Sleep, Mike Viola (Candy Butchers) (from the long lost 1996 release Candy Butchers)
“Let’s talk like lovers, kiss like porno, he is not the man for you, you’d be so much better off without him.”
From the Archives
Three Minute Marriage Proposal, The Gentlemen (from the 2005 release Brass City Band)
A recent live performance reminded me how incredible the Gentlemen are. There shows are something extraordinary, tremendous rock blow-outs that mix equal parts AC/DC and the Rolling Stones. Equally impressive, their studio recordings stand up solidly on their own while hinting at their powerhouse live sets. This song is a gem, a raging rocker with a touch of soul groove that chronicles a guy’s ambivalent proposal to get married in Memphis by the legendary Reverend Al Green, “’cause I’m just as scared as you, probably more, believe that its true, unless you got something better to do then just say I do.”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.