Godsmack-Realign(up 4 positions)
Godsmack are still one of my least favorite bands. But I don't dislike Realign, the fourth chart hit on the Faceless CD, as much as most of Godsmack's music. That's largely because Realign is less about Sully Erna's cold, self righteous singing than usual. Realign has a big, pretty good hard rock sound. Realign's verses are fairly typical, unpleasant Godsmack. With Erna snarling, they sound like Awake, Straight Out Of Line and other songs. The chorus is more enjoyable. Tony Rambola plays a good rising set of chords and Erna's vocal is relatively restrained. Realign, especially in Erna's vocal, is not very likable but, at least, it's not as nasty and combative as some of the band's songs. Realign is about trying to get out of a life of apathy, confusion and "decisions made from desperation" where Erna's fears came alive.
Lostprophets-Last Train Home(up 1 position)
It was inevitable that the hard but atmospheric sound that has dominated American rock radio the last few years would make it overseas. Welsh band Lastprophets join Linkin Park, Hoobastank and so many others in their generation of serious post-grungers. Perhaps they belong in the slightly better company of AFI, Story Of The Year(Last Train Home mixes nicely with Girl's Not Grey and Until The Day I Die) and The Used, whose music resembles the intense, hard rocking Last Train Home. Much of Last Train Home is kind of generic. Last Train Home doesn't stand out much from many similar songs. Singer Ian Watkins' voice has power and emotion but it also has the humorlessness and self importance of many of his colleagues. Last Train Home is still pretty good. Watkins is a strong singer who seems to have some charisma. Last Train Home gets decent tension from a mix of guitar sounds, which range from hard to melodic, interesting, angular drumming and a simple, vaguely menacing piano line. Last Train Home has a catchy chorus that flows into an appealing heartfelt bridge. On that bridge, Last Train Home transcends its formula and reaches an appealing early U2 type idealism as Watkins alternates with hollered backing vocals charmingly chanting "we sing." Last Train Home is impressively big and ambitious and it also has sweetly endearing parts. On Last Train Leaving, Watkins sings about trying to "forget the sorrow" of a love that's disappeared, primarily by deciding to "sing without a reason."
Ludacris featuring Shawnna-Stand Up(down 2 positions)
Ludacris never made the top 50 before December 2003. He came closest with Roll Out My Business, from his Word Of Mouf CD, which fell just short in 2002. Now Ludacris is all over the chart, also appearing on Chingy's Holidae Inn and Usher's Yeah. Stand Up, from the Chicken N Beer CD, is fairly standard rap. Ludacris goes to the club, shows off his diamonds, smokes "that Cheech and Chong", makes sure he's treated with proper respect and looks for a "thick young lady to pull." Still, Stand Up was well designed to expose the brash young man from Atlanta, whose given name is Christopher Bridges, to a larger audience. Ludacris' voice, while strong, is unremarkable but he has great presence. Ludacris' huge self assurance makes him a compelling figure. He's always in control, moving steadily with a natural, ungimmicky rap. He's confident that the momentum created by his forceful and theatrical but unthreatening voice will keep people's attention. Stand Up's simple but effective backing track shows similar confidence. Stand Up's verses stick to a crisp beat and good bass sample. The chorus' catchy "when I move you move" hook is well underlined by a good riff. On Stand Up, as usual, Ludacris doesn't have much more on his mind than having a good time. But Stand Up is a good showcase for his raunchy but basically harmless rap.
Maroon 5-This Lovebuy it!
Maroon 5 used to make bouncy alternative pop as Kara's Flowers. When their records didn't sell very well, they retooled and came back, with nearly the same personnel, as Maroon 5. The makeover worked. This Love is Maroon 5's second big hit from their debut Songs About Jane CD. Harder To Breathe was slick pop with a good hook but it struck me as cynical and cold. This Love was also carefully constructed with an eye on the pop charts but it's a little looser and warmer. This Love reminds me of the perky 70s pop of The Partridge Family and others. This Love's scratchy guitar riff, keyboards and steady beat give it a bouncy sound. Adam Levine's singing is a bit narcissistic but it's mostly relaxed and playful. Levine sings that a relationship with a girlfriend who acts like love is "a game, pretending to feel the same then turn around and leave again" is taking its toll. But on This Love's buoyant bridge he vows to keep making "sure everything's alright", " 'cause I know that's what you want me to do." This Love is disposable but very well made and charming pop.
Kelis-Milkshake(down 6 positions)
Kelis got some attention with Caught Out There, a striking, impossible to ignore song featuring Kelis screaming "I hate you so much right now." Kelis couldn't even get her second record released in the U.S. but her third CD, Tasty, has yielded her first big pop hit. With its attention grabbing spare sound, eastern rhythms and sassy sexual imagery, Milkshake qualifies as a novelty hit song but Milkshake is a good, interesting song. With so many guys rapping about their docile sexual conquests, it's good to hear a song with a woman who's sensual but confident and very much in control, even if the song was written and produced by The Neptunes(Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams), who have done hits for everyone including Britney, Justin, Usher, Nelly and Snoop Dogg. With her eccentric look and loopy but smart and confident musical persona, Kelis is a bit like Macy Gray but she comes off as slightly less gangly and odd. Without specifying what her milkshake is there's no doubt that, while it "brings all the boys to the yard", she decides who gets a taste. On Milkshake, Kelis teases another woman and offers to teach her "techniques that freak these boys." Milkshake draws you in with its exotic bongos and bells. It nicely alternates Kelis' unpolished, distinctive voice with a smoother female vocal. The distinctive, unusual things about Milkshake could make it annoying after repeat listens but it's good to hear a strong woman and a different sound amid similar sounding, male dominated music.
Finger Eleven-One Thing(up 1 position)
Finger Eleven are a band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada whose music usually fits within the alt-metal category. They made their latest record with Disturbed producer Johnny K. Bands generally establish their cred with a few hard rock hits before they have their big rock ballad hit but Finger Eleven's first song to get substantial airplay is a "hold up your lighters" song. I'm not a big fan of rock ballads so I don't love One Thing, the single from Finger Eleven's self titled third CD. One Thing is very familiar resembling, among others, Poison's Every Rose Has Its Thorn. One Thing is too drab and earnest for me but it is an effective rock ballad. With a spare sound of spooky synths, simply whacked drums and sensitive acoustic guitar, One Thing has the emotional power people want. Scott Anderson's singing is a bit boring but very sincere. Considering the context, he and the song don't get too showy or emotive. I don't understand why rock fans are suckers for mushy, ultraserious ballads but they are and the sappy One Thing isn't the worst.
Blink 182-I Miss You(up 4 positions)
Blink 182's self titled new album is a nice step forward towards a more complex, adult sound. Sometimes when they mix their trademark youthful, rocking style with a darker, more cerebral feel, Blink 182's songs aren't as smart as they want to be and the new seriousness results in less catchy melodies. A few of the songs, like Go, Asthenia and Always, are just fun, fast rockers that could have been on earlier Blink records. But much of Blink 182 shows growth and is enjoyable. Feeling This effectively incorporates hip hop into Blink 182's sound. All Of This has great percussive atmosphere and a sly, deadpan guest appearance by The Cure's Robert Smith. I Miss You has impressive depth and power. It's nicely restrained and muted, showing subtlety not normally associated with Blink 182. Blink 182 play acoustic instruments on I Miss You. Mark Hoppus plays stand up bass. Travis Barker's drumming is typically quick and precise. His subdued pounding gives a brooding song direction and, using brushes, adds texture. I Miss You's verse loops a quiet scraping guitar sample. The chorus has a haunted feeling. A striking organ adds a spooky, old fashioned sound. Chimes and simple piano complement the stark soundscape. Hoppus' flatter, less showy voice introduces I Miss You's mournful tone. Tom DeLonge then takes over. He doesn't have his usual exuberance but his bratty voice singing "don't waste your time on me, you're already the voice inside my head" suggests a more complicated situation than do Hoppus' solemn miss yous. I Miss You is a good, complex song that ranks with Blink 182's best singles.
Yeah, from Usher's Confessions CD, is pretty good dance music. The problem with Yeah is that I feel like I've heard it before. Yeah very closely resembles Get Low. That similarity is not surprising, since Yeah was cowritten and co produced by Get Low vocalist/writer/producer Jonathan "Lil' Jon" Smith. Yeah has a good, catchy synth riff but that riff is nearly identical to Get Low's. Yeah doesn't have Get Low's raucous energy. It has a more polished sound than Get Low. Usher's vocal is fine if fairly innocuous. Yeah is apparently an attempt to give Usher, whose previous hits have been fairly mild, a harder image. Still, Yeah needs some flavor and benefits from Lil Jon's interjections and Ludacris' edgier, less controlled vocal. In a lyric that apparently alludes to his breakup with TLC's Chilli, Usher sings on Yeah about being seduced, somewhat reluctantly, in a club by a "shorty" who turns out to be "best of homies" with Usher's girl. Ludacris takes over at the end and abandons the plot line. In his verse, he brags about his Jag, his Rolls, his three hundred thousand dollar pinky ring and about how he "won't stop 'til I get 'em in they birthday suits." Ludacris' rap is stupid and typical but he gives Yeah some excitement to go with its killer riff. Yeah is well made and sounds fine but it doesn't do much to improve Get Low. In a reminder of the benefits of a familiar sound and a known star with a pretty face, Yeah is an even bigger hit than Get Low was.
Good Charlotte-Hold On(unchanged)
Hold On is the fourth single from Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless CD. Good Charlotte have recently established that they're not just empty headed punks. Boys and Girls was fun, smart power pop. Hold On is also slower than the punky pop Good Charlotte made their name playing. Hold On is less interesting musically than Boys and Girls but fine. The verses are genial, generic guitar pop like Lifehouse's Spin(which I quite like) and Hanging By A Moment. The simple singalong chorus, introduced by big drums that tell you something important is about to happen, is even more anthemic than Good Charlotte's The Anthem, which mocked but also used tricks that make a catchy rock hit. Especially in the context of a poignant lyric, Drummer Chris Wilson and guitar players Benji Madden and Billy Martin's varied, muscular approaches create a big, powerful sound. Hold On's biggest draw is its lyric. Hold On, which has a moving video featuring people who lost friends and family to suicide, tries to convince kids that even if "no one seems to care" and you feel "pain you can not bare", life will get "better than you know." The further Good Charlotte moves away from punk, the more Joel Madden's voice is tested. On Hold On, he's often off key and a bit whiny but his sincere delivery overcomes some of his technical shortcomings. He's also helped by Hold On's sweeping music, which maintain an optimistic atmosphere. Hold On is pretty basic but its music is effective and its message to troubled adolescents is terrific.
Norah Jones-Sunrise(up 2 positions)
Especially in a downloading world where sales are down, Norah Jones is a goddess of the music business. Her debut Come Away With Me CD has sold more than eight million copies in the US alone. Feels Like Home, her followup, sold one million copies the week it came out and two million in its first month. The consensus regarding Feels Like Home is that it's fairly cautious. Jones is apparently most comfortable in a mellow mode. It does seem like there's more going on in Feels Like Home than there was on Come Away With Me, which was well played and sounded good but, at its worst, had a polite, boring, elevator music quality. On Feels Like Home, some of the songs have an alt country feel but Jones' music still generally fits somewhere between jazz, lite pop and country. Feels Like Home is a bit more confident and personal. As before, the saving grace of Jones' music is her supple, quite amazing voice. Jones' singing nicely carries Sunrise, one of the best things she's done. Jones shows confidence in eschewing a big beat and letting Sunrise's arrangement stay muted. Good, quiet playing twists around Jones' voice. Sunrise has an unshowy jazzy looseness with a mandolin and an unobtrusive, throbbing bass. Jones even plays a good little piano solo. Sunrise has Jones' typical modesty but it's also warm and relaxed. Like much of Jones' music, Sunrise is easy listening but it's not pandering and button pushing. Sunrise is charming. It sounds like Jones and friends are having good, if subdued, fun. Sunrise, written by Jones with bass player and boyfriend Lee Alexander, is about a couple spending a relaxed day in bed with a broken clock stuck at 9:15. Jones shows mild surprise that "we've made it through another day."
Counting Crows-She Don't Want Nobody Near(down 3 positions)
It's the season for greatest hits CDs by vaguely hip yuppie favorites from the early 90's. Counting Crows join Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM in the top 50 with a new track from a compilation record. Of those acts, Counting Crows had the shortest time at the top and the steadiest decline from their commercial peak. They've been unable to put out singles as striking as Mr. Jones, which introduced Counting Crows to the world, or Long December, the band's last big hit. But while Counting Crows no longer top the pop charts, they still get play in the less expansive world of adult alternative radio and they have retained a decent following with solid, unspectacular music. She Don't Want Nobody Near, from Films About Ghosts: The Best Of Counting Crows, is a good example of the band's significant, if modest, charms. She Don't Want Nobody Near doesn't have much personality. It basically just drifts forward but it's a nice ride. Crisp drumming, tough, evocative guitar and varied sounds, including piano and a mandolin, give the song good momentum. Adam Duritz' voice is strong, as usual. He can seem narcissistic but on She Don't Want Nobody Near, Duritz is a good team player, fitting in nicely with the song's melody and controlling his mannerisms. She Don't Want Nobody Near is about a woman who, after too many guys just disappear, decides she doesn't want to get too deep into relationships where the guy could "see what she looks like when she's down."
Twista-Slow Jamzbuy it!
The hit version of Slow Jamz is on Twista's Kamikaze. A slightly different version is on Kanye West's The College Dropout CD. Producer West seems to deserve much of the credit for Slow Jamz' appealing sound. West is on a roll with his production of Alicia Keys' stylish if slightly dry You Don't Know My Name and his own terrific hit Through The Wire. Through The Wire samples Chaka Khan's Through The Fire. Slow Jamz also makes good use of classic r&b, using a sped up piece of Luther Vandross' A House Is Not A Home. Slow Jamz mixes different sounds and vocalists with different styles but, using the sample to provide consistency and a timeless quality, West makes it work. Slow Jamz uses two singers who aren't technically great but have great presence. Foxx clearly enjoys his chance at being an R&B crooner. His affection for great soul singers is charming, as he recites a litany of favorites for entertaining the ladies. He hams it up a bit but does a good job, sounding like he's reenacting private moments singing along with favorite records. West's verse has some cliched hip hop misogynism and a very relaxed vocal but West sounds so good natured that he's hard to dislike. He also has some great goofy rhymes including "bring some friends you cool with, I'm gonna bring the Cool Whip" and "I'm gon' play this Vandross, you gon' take your pants off." West also has the lines about the girl with a light skinned friend and a dark skinned friend, both of whom look like Michael Jackson. Twista gets top billing but he's a bit of a supporting player. His two verses are stuck at Slow Jamz' back. Slow Jamz uses Twista well. He's incredibly fast. When he was known as Tongue Twista, Twista was listed in the Guinness Book Of Records as the world's fastest rapper. But Twista's flood of words would be exhausting over the length of a sound. West wisely places Twista among a bunch of other interesting sounds. The speed of Twista's skittering rap is remarkable but he goes by as a bit of a blur. Especially when he's going on about "smokin' on my cannibus" and "sippin' Hennessy", it's hard to care. Things improve when Twista slips into the song's raucous, name dropping spirit with fun, dopey rhymes about getting "your sheets wet listening to Keith Sweat" and bending your ass while "you be bumpin' Teddy Pendergrass." Slow Jamz sounds great. It has a good, crisp beat and backing that matches its vocalists. A smooth 70s chimes, keyboard and acoustic guitar sound backs Foxx. An appropriate nervous, racing riff accompanies Twista. Slow Jamz is a great cocktail of sounds.
Fuel-Falls On Me(up 1 position)
Pop radio has embraced Falls On Me, the first single from Fuel's Natural Selection CD, so it's returned to the top 50. My opinion of Falls On Me hasn't improved. It still seems like another lame attempt to reach a larger audience with an intense, overblown rock ballad. Fuel's Hemorrhage(In My Hands) provided a prime example of the emotive hit. Following a similar blueprint, Falls On Me has recaptured Hemorrhage's success. Falls On Me isn't as overdone as Hemorrhage but it's pretty boring amd obvious. The Hemorrhage similarity begins early as Falls On Me starts with quiet, meaningful strumming then Brett Scallions does a quiet, meaningful vocal. Predictably, big guitars soon come in. They're not so bad. Falls On Me has a decent sound. It's fairly catchy and has emphatic bursts of drums and guitar but Falls On Me has no spark or excitement. Scallions' pretentious, self important vocal doesn't help. Neither does Falls On Me's familiarity. Besides Hemorrhage, Falls On Me echoes Collective Soul's Heavy with a nearly identical hook: "all of your weight falls on me." Carl Bell's lyric apparently thanks a woman for breaking "my disease", so "I can breathe."
Story Of The Year-Until The Day I Die(up 1 position)
St. Louis' Story Of The Year are the latest success from the world of emo and screamo. Story Of The Year's debut Page Avenue CD was produced by Goldfinger's John Feldmann, who also produced the debut by screamo kings The Used. Until The Day I Die has a sweet lyric. Marsala vows that even if he sometimes hates her, he'll always be devoted to his love, he'll always "take the fall for you" and that if she died right row, he'd die too. Until The Day I Die strikes me more as worthy than actually enjoyable but there is a lot to like about it. Dan Marsala's screamed intensity is a little cliched. His endlessly full lunged, serious vocal gets a little boring. It could use a little variation besides an end of song howl which, having been done by so many bands, seems more inevitable than cathartic. Still, Marsala's passion feels very real and, if you let yourself get swept up, it can be invigorating. Until The Day I Die is well constructed. Until The Day I Die is energized by Josh Wills' good pounding drums, a nice repeated guitar riff on the verses and Ryan Phillips and Phillip Sneed's effective lattice of power chords and driving guitar riffs on the chorus. It has a good galloping, crunching finish. Until The Day I Die isn't startlingly novel but it is exciting, well played and charmingly sincere.
Melissa Etheridge-Breathe(up 5 positions)
I vaguely recally a time when Melissa Etheridge's music showed a bit of imagination and rock and roll energy. But for a while she's been churning out overwrought, sub-Springsteen crap with an adult contemporary radio friendly gloss. On Breathe, from her Lucky CD, Etheridge again tries too hard for emotion power. Etheridge goes into a fists clenched intensity after only a few bars and Breathe has nowhere to go. Breathe stays in a heavy, anthemic mode and lacks any nuance, subtlety or shifts in dynamics. Breathe is carefully produced but, with strings and big drums, it tries for pathos with a blugeoning, sledgehammer sound that keeps coming back to a formulaic chorus. Breathe is obvious easy listening disguised as personal rock music. The shame about Breathe and similar songs is that Etheridge clearly has real, sincerely felt emotions but she expresses them in a hackneyed, impersonal way. Breathe is about missing a former partner. Etheridge sings about longing for home, "a feeling buried in you."
Beyonce-Me Myself and I(unchanged)
The exhilarating Crazy In Love justifiably won Beyonce Knowles Grammy awards but her subsequent singles have been less remarkable. Me, Myself and I was cowritten and produced by the in demand Scott Storch(Pink's Family Portrait, Justin's Cry Me A River, Christina's Fighter). Me, Myself & I has a smooth sound. Its wah-wah riff gives it a bit of texture and a 70's retro feel. But that riff gets a little annoying because nothing else in the song stands up to it. Beyonce singing is smooth and fluid. Her controlled vocal fits Me, Myself & I's sleek, easy sound but gives, as she often does, the impression of holding back and not fully engaging. That impression is supported by the lyric's icy resolve. My, Myself & I's has the same message of self reliance and determination Beyonce has given us since early in her Destiny's Child career. Beyonce apparently describes two different bad relationships. In one, the guy cheated "with loose women." In the other, he was "so controlling." Claiming "there ain't no need to cry", she says she realizes that she can only trust herself and that she's "gon' be my own best friend." She sounds like she's reading from a self improvement book as she vows "I will never disappoint myself." Beyonce's focused, cynical ambition is, obviously, part of why she's a big star but, on Me, Myself & I, it's kind of sad. Beyonce's limited faith in others is apparently based on real, sad experiences but, to me, her chilliness limits her appeal. Me, Myself & I is well made, pleasant listening but it's not very likable.
Guster-Careful(down 4 positions)
Guster appeared on MTV2's Album Covers show, playing the songs on the Violent Femmes' first record. Their precise versions showed that Guster are good musicians with a taste for jagged, idiosyncratic music that's surprisingly for a band with such a genial, clean cut sound. The faithfulness of the covers, the refusal to deviate in any significant way, also was a reminder of the lack of surprise and edge in Guster's music. Careful, the second chart hit from Guster's Keep It Together CD, is another example of Guster's likable, fairly predictable style. Careful is well played and inviting. It has warm harmonies and Ryan Miller's lead vocal is appealingly unpretentious. Guster have largely stuck with the simple acoustic arrangements that first got people's attention. Their shiny jangles and strums are clean and crisp. Brian Rosenworcel gives Guster's music good texture with good quiet, varied percussion that avoids standard rock drummer pounding. Careful's downside is that it's awfully like a lot of Guster's other songs. Its sound is so smooth and easy to take that it's kind of boring. Like Amsterdam, Careful has a dark lyric that belies its sunny music. Careful warns a girlfriend who walks out "when I asked you to stay" that she'll "hurt yourself" in a world where "others lie." Miller tells her he's the one who tells her the truth and she'll be "back again" to him.
Sarah McLachlan-Fallen(down 8 positions)
It's been more than six years and Sarah McLachlan has had a baby since the release of Surfacing, her last studio record. But surprisingly little about McLachlan's sound has changed. Fallen, the first single from McLachlan's Afterglow CD, sounds a lot like Building A Mystery and other McLachlan songs. It's disappointing that McLachlan hasn't changed her style at all. She can come across as self satisfied and could use an edge. The same sound is bound to have less impact when repeated. Still, while Fallen is familiar and unsurprising, the formula it follows is a good one. Fallen is listenable and quite insinuating. Fallen shares with Building A Mystery a patient pace that creates a good dramatic feel. It's carefully constructed, with strings, piano and electric guitar deployed in a fairly discrete manner that creates a modest kind of excitement. McLachlan's voice is clear and controlled with a touch of sensuality but, as with her music, you can wish that McLachlan didn't seem so comfortable with her singing and took more chances. On Fallen, McLachlan sings, in fairly melodramatic terms, that she's "sunk so low" after messing up a relationship where she got "caught up" in an offer with a cost that "was so much more than I could bear."
AFI-Silver and Coldbuy it!
Before their latest CD, AFI never had a big radio hit but their Sing The Sorrow CD has given them three chart hits. Silver and Cold isn't as good as Girl's Not Grey but it's better than The Leaving Song, Pt. 2. AFI worked up some energy and excitement on Girl's Not Grey's impassioned chorus. The rest of AFI's music seems more boring. Silver and Cold has a big sound but it's very serious and a bit stiff. Davey Havok's voice is sincere but his howl shows no subtlety or modulation. With big, impassioned vocals, Silver and Cold's chorus has an anthemic appeal. But Havok's writing is wildly overdone. He sings "you, in somber resplendence, I hold" and "as a rapturous voice escapes, I will tremble a prayer." Silver and Cold is apparently a love song and it has an appealing sweeting. But any joy is overwhelmed by pounding drums, thick guitars and Havok's hysterical, agitated singing. Silver and Cold's emotion seems appealingly real but it's presented in an overwrought package.
Indigo Girls-Perfect Worldbuy it!
Perfect World is a pleasant, good sounding song from All That We Let In CD, Indigo Girls' ninth studio record. Perfect World has an appealing lyric that urges us "to be a ripple in the water." The Girls ask us not to "look the other way" but to "look a little closer" and to work towards a perfect world. As on many Indigo Girls songs, there's a sense of preaching to the chorus. The people Indigo Girls have in mind are unlikely to appreciate being criticized for their cell phone dependence or being help complicit for "the killing."
Nick Cannon-Gigolobuy it!
Nick Cannon was previously best known as a comedian and an actor on his Nickelodeon tv show and in the movies Drumline and Love Don't Cost A Thing. Gigolo is on Cannon's self titled CD. Cannon got help for his first full length CD from hit maker R. Kelly, who co-wrote, produced and sang backup on Gigolo. Three things are usually true about Kelly's songs: they sound good and they have some odd sonic touches and fairly crude images of women. They're all true about Gigolo. Kelly sings the chorus. Typically, he's got money and women on his mind, bragging that he's "spending lots of dough" and is "always surrounded by so many 'hos." Cannon does the raps, playing the cocky star looking for a one night stand "wit' a groupie" not a girlfriend. Cannon doesn't have a particularly distinctive voice but he is fast, smooth and appealingly confident. Gigolo's chorus has an atmospheric riff that sounds like it should be on a dreamy techno track. Otherwise, Gigolo is good if unremarkable. It has a crisp beat and a good guitar sample repeated throughout. Gigolo's vibe is pretty laid back. It doesn't knock you out with its inventiveness like Kelly's Ignition remix did. Gigolo is another Kelly track with a decent sound and a questionable attitude towards women.
Five For Fighting-100 Yearsbuy it!
John Ondrasik, the guy who made Superman a new age wimp on his 2000 hit, is back with more sentimental crap by his band Five For Fighting. On 100 Years, from Five For Fighting's The Battle For Everything CD, Ondrasik again tries to make us think. Ondrasik moves back and foward from his current age, appreciating highlights, remembering that life is short and apparently advising a 15 year old that "there's still time for you." There's nothing wrong with 100 Years' concept but, lyrically and vocally, Ondrasik isn't insightful enough to justify the smug self righteousness he projects. He's so sensitive and thoughtful and so lacking in edge or self doubt that he seems a little lame. On 100 Years, Ondrasik shifts from an undramatic voice to a high vocal that seems intended to match the tone of his piano but is annoyingly reedy. With strings and his showy but bland piano playing, Ondrasik tries for a sweeping sound but the uninteresting result makes me long for Bruce Hornsby's similar but better songs.
Hilary Duff-Come Cleanbuy it!
Come Clean is the second single from Hilary Duff's Metamorphosis CD. So Yesterday was perky pop mainly intended to connect with the young fans Duff made playing Lizzie McGuire. Come Clean indicates greater ambitions, to make Duff a pop star with an older audience. Duff sounds less comfortable on Come Clean than on the chirpy So Yesterday. She isn't helped by Come Clean's generic drum machine and icy synths. Come Clean is very familiar, bringing to mind Here Comes The Rain Again, among other songs. Come Clean was written and produced by John Shanks, who has done songs with Michelle Branch(including her pretty good recent top 50 near miss Breathe), and Kara Dioguardi, who's worked with Enrique Iglesias and Kylie Minogue. Come Clean sounds pieced together from other pop songs, particularly Branch songs like Breathe. Branch's voice is better than Duff's and Branch brings more of a feeling of substance. Come Clean is pleasant and innocuous. It sounds fine. It won't alienate a large young following glad to follow her career where it goes and its sleek, tasteful, sterile sound will attract older listeners too.
Foo Fighters-Darling Nikki(unchanged)
The cover of Prince's Darling Nikki was meant as a throwaway. It's an extra track on the CD single for Have It All, an unremarkable, typical Foo Fighters rocker which is the fourth single from the pretty bad One By One CD. Radio prefers the b-side to the a-side. Darling Nikki, on the Purple Rain soundtrack, showcased Prince's irresistable cockiness, his love of racy, sexual subject matter and his ability to create a striking sound. The stark verses featured just Prince's mischievous voice and a muted bass drum beat. The chorus had an icy sound. Its industrial crunch, along with the story of an encounter with "a sex fiend", has apparently made it a long time favorite at strip clubs(where Dave Grohl presumably got the idea for the cover). Foo Fighters' version is less subtle and less distinctive. Grohl beefs up the beat, making the music more rocking but less interesting. He also adds rock guitar of the sort that Prince used to play but, seeking a cool, erotic beat and synths sound, didn't use on Darling Nikki. Its worse addition is a bloated ending with Grohl screaming and playing showy guitar lines. Otherwise, it's fairly respectful and not too bad. Grohl shows some of Prince's playfulness, pronouncing masturbating in the whitest way possible. Grohl kept the lyric, which has twists including the discovery that if you want Nikki to grind, you have to "sign on the dotted line" and the ego stoking ending where she thanks him "for a funky time." Since it was apparently done as a goof and didn't turn out too bad, it's hard to be too tough on Foo Fighters' mediocre version. Still, it best serves as a reminder of Prince's early to mid 80's golden age and as encouragement to dust off, or buy, his wicked, wildly creative records.
The Thrills-One Horse Townbuy it!
One Horse Town is a terrific, uplifting song from The Thrills' rich, very likable So Much For The City CD. My family has been listening and dancing to One Horse Town for months. My two year old daughter Isabel has constructed a back story that includes a visit for the lonely one horse from a horse friend. So Much For The City was one of 2003's delights. A couple songs have a heavy, serious sound that doesn't fit the band's personality but most of So Much For The City is buoyant fun. The Thrills, a band from Dublin, Ireland, are apparently partly sparked by an intoxicating vision of the U.S. that's based both on images from popular culture and personal experience(the band lived for a while in San Diego). The influence of the U.S. and its music can be seen in Conor Deasy's lyrics, which have five songs based in specified California towns and another one comparing a woman's love to Las Vegas, and in the use of country music instruments like banjo and steel guitar and arrangements which evoke The Beach Boys and Phil Spector. The Beach Boys/Spector comparison is particularly apt on One Horse Town which, with chimes, banjo and piano, has a full, layered sound. One Horse Town's horns and driving drums also give it the exhilarating feel of a Motown classic. One Horse Town's positivity, jangly guitar, tambourine and big "aah" backing vocals also bring to mind 60s California bands like The Mamas & The Papas and The Byrds. The sweet warmth of The Thrills' music starts with Deasy's singing and writing. Deasy's vocal is a fragile, raw quaver that sounds like that of Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis or The Undertones' Feargal Sharkey. Deasy's wary voice is thin but charmingly unassuming. Deasy's lyrics often have an edge that's surprising, given the music's benign surface. On One Horse Town, Deasy regrets having settled down when everyone else was sleeping around and, feeling that his "baby" is "preying on a tender heart", decides to leave.