BLOCK ROCK

I am hardly the biggest fan of single named artists mostly because I can
never figure out if it’s a band or a person trying to sound cooler by
disregarding the necessity of two part names. But in the case of Block,
the name fits the sound rather nicely. With folksy based songs, Block
uses Johnny Cash thumping riffs to that give an energetic rhythm that he
complements with South Park-esque style lyrical commentary. What better
word to describe this experience than simply, Block.
After seeing him entertain in his solo performance at Mo’ Pitkins, his
name turned all the more useful because with an audience to bounce to his
beat and hear his stories, Block rocks. Filling in the bits between
songs with stories from childhood and commentary on the world today,
Block used every avenue to entertain the crowd during his hour long set.
Oh, and the music was pretty darn good too. Block played some hits from
his previous record, Timing is Everything, including the revealing
“Cigarettes, Prozac, & Scotch,” and some great new songs of his just
released album, The Last Single Guy. The best from this latest
collection, “Sweet Potato Pie” has autobiographical hints but are so damn
clever and catchy, “Line em up, big shots, here’s a little blow/ cell
phone call home, jezzing with the wife/ ask about the kids, make sure
they’re all right,” you can’t help but tap your feet. No need for an
elaborate big band feel on this particular night, as Block can certainly
rock enough to carry both a one man show and a one part name.

Scotty Don’t Music Review

SD

The self-titled debut EP by rock band Scotty Don’t ignites a fire from the
beginning of its six tracks. “Back Porch” starts off with an alluring
pop/rock verse, but picks up speed and intensity. By the time you get to
the chorus, you find yourself completely caught up in what could be the
band’s single, that is, of course, if Scotty Don’t seeks a place in
popular music.

Starting off softly and momentarily reminiscent of the Eagles’ “Hotel
California,” “Everything’s Alright” eventually breaks out into a jam
session with a Caribbean feel once the meat of the song commences. While
hardly reggae (the vocals keep it from that), the soft, summery sound
seems perfect for driving around with the windows down. One thing to note
about the song is it never delivers some unforgettable chorus or a hook of
any kind. Few songs work as brilliantly as this one does without a hook,
and surprisingly after a listen to this track, one can’t help but remember
“Hey, I really liked that,” despite not having a tune to hang on to.

The band occasionally bears resemblance to Sublime, especially on the
latter song and briefly on a track called “When I Say,” which can be found
on the band’s MySpace page, but there’s a good reason for that. Scotty
Don’t was actually formed by veteran members of Badfish: A Tribute to
Sublime. The resemblance is kept to a minimum, and if anything, it seems
to be more about paying homage to a popular band’s style rather than
ripping off a sound that made one band unique.

Perhaps the most stand-out track on Scotty Don’t’s impressive EP is “Punk
Rock Lullaby.” Featuring the band’s best vocals, a Top 40-worthy melody,
and solid acoustic guitar core accompanied by a vocal chant and subtle use
of exotic instruments, the track seems zero parts “punk rock” and all
lullaby. Perhaps, though, the misleading title might only garner them fans
discovering something exciting and new.

Touring in support of Badfish means that fans will get a double dose of
what these rockers-at-heart are capable of. After listening to their EP, I
can assure you I will be attending a Scotty Don’t show in the near future!

What makes a good song good?

I have actually been exploring this question for the last two weeks. This happened because of a question posed to me by one of the other guys in the office when I was playing the National’s Alligator. This was an album that had as much of an exponential buzz growth as any album can probably have these days, when it was released in 2005. I heard it in 2006 and the hype probably didn’t peak until the end of the year and into the beginning of 2007. This hype caused said office worker to ask me “Can you, in two sentences or less, tell me why you like this band and why everybody is saying they are like the next big thing?”

So I tried. And I failed. He wasn’t impressed. In fact, I think the question was incorrect. Instead it should have been posed more like “In two sentences or less, try to convince me to like this band because I have already decided that I don’t.” This, of course, was quite an unfair challenge and so I am not that disappointed in myself that I couldn’t sway my coworker to love Alligator as much as I did. This was his loss, not mine. But, of course, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to think about why I did love them so much.

Then I attended an information session by ASCAP with three industry executives talking in a panel to a group about how to get signed by a label. The prevailing theme was that an artist had to have killer songs. And what made killer songs? Well there were all kinds of mechanical terms tossed around like “hooks” and “song structure” and things like that, but one of the guys also talked about “IT,” as in songs also have to have “IT” – some kind of grabbing quality that probably can’t be expressed in words or quantified in a rhythmic scale.

I don’t know what “IT” is so I really can’t tell you what makes a good song good. I think it could be argued that “IT” is the transition from the truest thought and inspiration in an artist’s mind to its manifest expression in sound. An artist wanted to relay this core sound or this subject matter and expressed it in a form because they were inspired to do so. Then the training and studying and knowledge of the musical language fill out the rest of the song. It doesn’t have to be a song lyric or a catchy symbol. It can be as simple as the overall mood of the song, and of course people may or may not like the “IT” in a song. The best songs have some of the most universal “IT’s,” and that is why the greatest songs are loved by so many, because so many people get “IT.”
Or that could be a decently well crafted 8-line paragraph of crap because I have no idea what I am talking about. I have never written a song, nor accomplished anything artistically worthy since I successfully completed the color-in-between the lines tests in 2nd grade. But, I do know that the “IT” is there and it is something different then playing this note in such and such scale on that part of the beat. And that phenomenon is hard to describe.

MG

The National’s Alligator was full of “IT’s” and that is why I loved that album. My new favorite band, Moses Guest, also has many songs that have “IT,” and that is why they are my new favorite band. Their idea of sonic story telling is compatible with the qualities that I like to listen, I like their songs because I love their “It’s.” The title track off their new album, Best Laid Plans, is by far their catchiest, most accessible, and most well rounded song to date. It’s a great song, but not my favorite. Instead, I have gravitated to a song called “Colorado.” I have listened to the song probably 6 times since I found out about Moses Guest (only a couple weeks ago), yet every time that it came up when I heard it on my mp3 player, I had to stop and check to see what the track was. “Oh yeah, Colorado, I like this song,” I would say to myself. As of this writing I couldn’t even tell you a line in the lyrics other then I am pretty sure they something about Colorado.

But the lyrics aren’t why I love the song. I love the song because the attitude and the sound make it seem like I have been locked in a stinky car with my best friends for 2 days as we smoked 57 hundred cigarettes on our road trip to Colorado; or like I’m cruising through a mountainous Colorado road on a hot afternoon in the middle of the summer with the windows down as I am air drying from the white water river trip I just took; or like I just jumped into a viscously cold pool of water at the bottom of a waterfall where we have just dropped off our packs and are going to make camp. Actually, none of these places have to be in Colorado. We all can all relate to a destination that takes us out of our normal daily routine and makes us feel this way.

I could be wrong, but I believe this was the “IT” that Moses Guest was going for in the song and if it wasn’t, who cares, that’s the beauty of being listeners – we can actually take whatever we want whenever we want from a song. Some songwriters use their specific lyrics to get the “IT” across. Moses guest used this jazzy funky intro that turned into a rocky chorus, which evolved into funk laden bass/keyboard exchange. The band eventually jams out together and they come back to the chorus. It’s a ten minute song, so it’s long. But I can go to Colorado for 10 minutes on the subway and not have to throw down for the air fare and take days off of work. I love “Colorado,” because I get “IT.” For many people, the idea of being locked in a stinky car for 2 days with his best friends as they smoked 57 hundred cigarettes would not be that great of a time so I don’t expect them to get “IT.” But at least I think I now have an answer to whenever someone asks me to explain why I like something in two sentences or less. Actually, I will only need two letters.

“Duh, dude, that band totally has “IT!”

Ethan Walker – Tears of Joy

Ethan Walker’s solo debut, Tears of Joy, is a transcendent acoustic rock album with a blending of celestial qualities and a folk twang. Walker, most noted for his work as a percussionist for the Denver-based Fat Sow band, does all the instrumentation for the album – aside from violin, done by Brent Williams. The new project not only captures his love of music, but also serves as a manifestation of his new spiritual path of meditation and devotion.

Roaring violin, sensuous piano, or joyous flute – each diverse track offers a unique complement to Walker’s foundation of drifting acoustic melodies and soothing vocals; this refreshing emphasis on variety seems to be a lost art among other singer/songwriters. Whether it is the psychedelic pink and blue album cover or his various gigs around present-day hippie communes, Walker’s music draws a great deal of inspiration from the counter-culture movement of the 60’s, which has undeniably shaped contemporary folk rock. Tracks like Garden of Our Heart could easily be mistaken for something from CSNY’s Déjà Vu. The harmonized vocalizations that characterize the album seem as if Walker, ever the believer in the spiritual realm, may be channeling Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The excellent production quality helps minimize the dated feel, as the only negative of the album is that it may be 30 years too late to be truly appreciated. Ethan Walker’s Tears of Joy has a classic folk rock sound and a divine feel, a great first solo release from a tremendously talented musician.

1000 Miles From Home- songs from “Collusion”

 

Collusion

There’s something interesting going on with the handful of songs I
listened to off of 1000 Miles From Home’s debut EP, “Collusion.” With a
familiar garage rock sound, 1000 Miles offer undeniable melodies on their
songs that you can’t help but get into. Still, there’s more to the band
that makes them worthwhile. Their lyrics for the most part seem pretty
dark, and they make noble artistic decisions with their matching of lyrics
and music.

Take for instance “The Man,” s track whose melody could be behind a rock
song about anything. Insert a question mark after your thought of “this is
a love song,” when you hear lines like “Raping your eyes, I’ll keep
laughing loud enough to hear you cry.” If you take the time to listen to
the lyrics, you may be caught off guard by some of them, but the more you
think about them, you realize that nothing could be better for making the
band stand out among others.

In comparison to “The Man,” “Explain the Explanation” sounds slightly
softer in what could be made a big hit by an artist like Foo Fighters.
While not as dark, you have this great hook-infused pop/rock song matched
with lead singer Zac Carrington singing about yearning and crying on the
floor.

Sure, 1000 Miles From Home seems to be taking college radio by storm, but
is there a brighter future for them? With fans that will surely identify
with the sounds and words 1000 Miles presents on “Collusion,” they have
found a likely niche in college students, and there’s nothing wrong with
that; but no doubt, these songs could take them further.

Darrin James Band – Thrones of Gold

Thrones of Gold Cover

As a resident of Brooklyn’s uber-trendy Williamsburg, it might have been quiet easy for Darrin James to get wrapped up in current fads of the music scene. Despite lacking the indie façade or better yet “Arcade Fire-ness” that the pretentiously cultured neo-hipsters wet themselves over, the earthy roots rock that characterizes James’s music has the quality of something real and something tangible.

While the majority of the album is straight roots rock, the title track, Thrones of Gold, blends a little more country and soul. Conjuring the heartland – let’s call it Americana, let’s call it music for the everyday blue-collar man (or woman) – his course vocals and folky twang are a force to be reckoned with.

A few months back, I hopped the L to the Lorimer stop to see the Darrin James Band play at Pete’s Candy Store. I dug the place, as it really agreed with my tastes: reasonably priced beer, a free folk music rag to read while I waited, and none of those thrift store frequenting, one pant leg rolled up posers that infest the rest of Williamsburg Arriving at 10:07 p.m. on a Wednesday and waiting another twenty minutes for the previous act to finish up, Darrin’s crew got the closing slot, following a tremendously talented female singer/songwriter who had the placed overflowing with people. Playing to a mixed bag of late 20 to early 40 year olds, they all have jobs and you could just sense the internal debate: “Man, the train runs so slow after 11, should I get out of here, well, maybe I’ll just hand around for one song.” The venue was very intimate, like a wide hallway with two-chaired tables lining the walls and only a narrow walkway in between. 45 minutes, a couple of refreshing beverages, and a great performance later, almost the entire crowd was intact (with just a few jumping ship). And yeah, getting back on the train took forever, but I’m pretty sure everyone who stuck it out, myself included, thought it was worth it. So, catch Darrin playing in Brooklyn and NYC, as well as select dates throughout the Northeast.

Battle: Dying To Be A Memorable Musician

By: Indie

This will be a sensitive subject, and is in no way intended to offend anyone; just an observation on how our society chooses its icons. I’ve heard the argument that the majority of influential musicians die young. Is this really the case, or are we merely brainwashed, whoring ourselves to the concept of supply. When you can’t get the girl, her fragrance is heavenly and the sound of her voice is angelic. If you land her, the flame eventually dies down, but if you’re left forever wanting then she’ll go down as your White Whale. iPod announces the revolutionary iPhone and people line up to buy it because “hey, I’ve got to get mine before they sell out.” Realistically, Apple could easily supply enough for everyone to purchase whenever they’d like, but what does that do for demand? The chance you won’t get it becomes the impetus for the sale.

So John Lennon goes down as one of the most profound musicians to grace the planet. Paul McCartney, on the other hand, remains listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful musician/composer in the history of popular music. At the height of the Lennon/McCartney partnership, the two were friendly rivals; for every “Imagine” that Lennon wrote, McCartney kept pace with a song like “Yesterday.” With Lennon’s untimely death our supply was halted, and his status rose to that of a folkloric immortal. McCartney continued releasing music, most recently his record on the Starbucks label. The reviews weren’t great, and most critics feel if it weren’t for the clout of being on Starbucks and the genius associated with his name, the record wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar. We never lost our supply, so he’s simply Paul McCartney now, while John Lennon, is LENNON.

No one made that big of a deal over Nick Drake while he was alive. Elliott Smith has a cult-like following, Jeff Buckley went down as one of the most influential singer/songwriters of our time, and both men died tragically in their prime. What happens if they were still alive, able to pull a McCartney – continuously making music for the love of it, with the genius that propelled them to greatness slowly trickling away – would they still be seen in the same light? I don’t think 2Pac and Biggie still go down as the greatest rappers of all-time if they would have fallen into the Bling and Whips trend? I could just imagine it now, Biggie with a grill. With all do respect, and may eh rest in peace, but Big Pun was never very good. So, if James Taylor met his end after recording Sweet Baby James would my children be going to James Taylor High School? As we wet ourselves over this on-demand world we’ve created, we can’t forget the exaggerated greatness that comes with scarcity.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.