Steve J. Moore

Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

On My Way Home from Normal

In Writing on December 2, 2008 at 10:24 pm

It’s been a long couple of weeks and student teaching is coming to a close: papers due, assignments to grade, and time records to double and triple-check (in pencil of course). Driving home from Republic, Ben Folds banged on 88 piano keys and rang loudly in my ears. His new album, Way to Normal, has been out for several weeks now and I’ve heard a lot of good.

If I could give the album three adjectives to describe it:

Wistful

Organ-grinder

Philarious

Ok, that last one is cheating, but I wanted to say philosophical+hilarious! Wistful, is probably too soft of an adjective to describe the entire album per se, but the elements that are so foil the artist I think. Folds has always been full of…wist…to me.

Expectantly or yearningly eager, watchful, or intent; mournfully expectant or longing. (Chiefly in reference to the look.)

Thanks OED, don’t know what I’d do without you! Just looking at Ben Folds you get a sense of his style. His constant half-smirk is always wispering something melodic, existential, and half-cursing, into my ear. I ordered Whatever and Ever Amen from Columbia House (13 CDs for ONE CENT!!!!) back in 1997. I was 13, what can I say? But the album has always stuck with me. His lyrics are raw not like a shank of uncooked beef, but rather like a California roll from a hole-in-the wall suburban take-out place.

Maybe Organ-grinder isn’t an adjective, but I’m adopting it into my musical lexicon of description. Listen to You Don’t Know Me, featuring the incomparable Regina Spektor.

It’s so wonderfully full of noncannon sound. The little five-piece group backing Ben and Regina makes the song my favorite toy in the box. It’s fun, brightly colored, and it hasn’t bored me yet.

If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything

In Music on September 8, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Vibrating on a frequency somewhere between The Police and Maroon 5, The Script writes themselves into my list of great new discoveries of 2008. I won’t get into the grammar of referring to bands as wholes or parts, because they come from Ireland and it would just get too confusing. (European English usually referrs to bands as singular entities, whereas American writers typically denote bands plurality by their name, ie-The Beatles is plural, versus The Fray is singular). I learned that from Grammar Girl!

ANYWAYS… 

I struggle to do more than compare The Script to other bands and ask anyone listening to interpret my description for themselves. They are implottable in our world of strict genre guidelines. Their website points out that they have “anthemic” lyrics, “R n B production” and “pop melodiousness.”  What I will say is that their album is wonderful. Wikipedia classifies them as “soft rock”…which is an outright insult. Soft rock is something that no one really listens to, it just gets played by people at boring desk jobs because it’s moderately uptempo music that was once probably decent, but is now just considered “politically correct.” The Script isn’t exactly PC.

The Script is a Mac for sure. Their sound is clean and full of a hip hop-anonymous poetry that doesn’t quite shock you when it drops the F bomb. They don’t curse to be crude, cool, or hard, they do so because their narrative songs are gritty and express a reality that calls for cursing. There’s humor and edginess there too; one of their songs is called “If You See Kay.”  

Did you get it?

I kept listeing to the chorus If you see kay… and it finally hit me as to why it sounded strange. I laughed out loud (IF YOU SEE KAY). Har har. They pull off what would otherwise be just a cleverly done crude joke because the song ends up being a very sweet little love song.

Tracks like “Breakeven” remind me of my favorites from Third Eye Blind in the way that the words can so beautifully lament a troubled heart in a major key. 

I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing
Just prayin’ to a god that I don’t believe in
‘Cause I got time while she got freedom
‘Cause when a heart breaks no it don’t break even

They say bad things happen for a reason
But no wise words gonna stop the bleeding
Cause she’s moved on while I’m still grieving
Cause when a heart breaks no it don’t break even

I’ll post a “video” of the song here from YouTube.

I’ll say again–as I probably do in every music post–that probably the most pleasing feeling for me when I finish listening to an album is that of finding a cohesion between the songs that brings the album together as a whole rather than ten or twelve separate radio tracks (bleh!). 

Quotes like “Sometimes tears say all there is to say/ and sometimes your first scars won’t ever fade away”  and “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” may just sound like pop-rock soundbytes out of context, but they are merely players in a larger play going on. The Script has colorful palate, rich in musical and emotional tones painted in broad strokes by their soaring lyric performances and simple musicality. I’ve got to put another track on here that I just love, The Man Who Can’t Be Moved:

I think that sums up my review just fine.

I don’t care what they say…

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Writing on music was not something that I had ever intended to do often however, given my current state of affairs I’ve found myself listening (and catching up) on music more than other things because I can multi-task while listening to an album a lot easier than I can with a book, beverage, film, or game.  So, very pleasantly I find myself in the position of listening to more and more music of late.

In the past four years or so, I’ve broken down just about every wall of musical prejudice in my heart. Now, I like to think there is almost no genre or style of music that I wouldn’t give a chance. Everything done out of honest expression has some sort of value that can be derived or enjoyed. That being said, no I’m not reviewing anything really strange and obtuse like a John Cage album with tracks of complete silence. Nor am I going to try and posit the presence of some transcendental value in Hannah Montana’s latest musical foray. It’s just something I happen to profoundly enjoy.

The British winner of The X Factor (I promise my blogs on music won’t solely reference contest winning singers) has more than a heaping spoonful of vocal talents to backup her debut release Spirit. Here on the other side of the pond, most of us did not hear about her until months later when her single Bleeding Love hit the charts and decimated whatever it is that makes songs top charts…I’m no expert on such events but I know that they are certainly no indicator of how “good” a song is.

That’s what ears are for and boy, does she make me wish I had more ears. Lewis’s voice is hauntingly powerful in scope and yet serenely delicate in its style. Bleeding Love was produced by someone associated with One Republic‘s lead singer, which is maybe one reason why that song is just incredible. The abrasive pulse thumps and claps as her voice just shines through with shrill highs that are actually pretty rather than feline and annoying like Mariah Carey some people we have heard.

Somehow this album makes me feel vindicated as a child of the 80s and early 90s. The subtle clave and synth snare just make me want to start working out in hot pants or something.

I don’t care what they say/ I’m in love with you/They try to pull me away/ but they don’t know the truth/ my hearts crippled by the vein it keeps closin’/ You cut me open and I keep bleedin’ love.

Lewis feels to me like everything I wanted in a successor to Whitney “crack is whack” Houston. Sheer power and beauty in sound with great production value on top of it all.

I’m in love with this album a little bit and I’ll keep bloggin’ love.

PS- Since my wife teaches dance, it’s a given I have no choice to that we watch So You Think You Can Dance together. This piece is choreographed by Napoleon and Tabbitha D’umo who also host Rock the Reception where they teach couples who can’t dance how to throw it down on their big day. Mostly they are the people in the industry responsible for making hip-hop dance more than humping and well, more humping. This is what made me get this album:

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