T.A.T.U. - All The Things She Said
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 25 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
A lot of contemporary European music is garbage. People on the continent seem to love music that takes 70s disco and makes it even more glossy and superficial. However, All The Things She Said reminds me of how, after listening to American pop carefully produced to sound familiar, European music, with its love of big sounds, over the top dramatics and odd subjects, can be refreshing. All The Things She Said, from T.A.T.Us 200 Km/h In The Wrong Lane CD, with its big beat and power chords, cheesy synths and anguished vocals, is currently one of my favorite pop songs. The frantic emoting of Julia Volkova and Lena Katina, T.A.T.U.s young Russian singers(who are probably not real life lovers), effectively matches All The Things She Saids story of tortured lesbian attraction. All The Things She Said is packed with intense, passionate soap imagery of passion thats opened my eyes but made her feel totally lost and like shes lost my mind and crossed the line. It would be inaccurate to imply that All The Things She Said travelled, without alteration, from Russian dance clubs to American airwaves. All The Things She Said was polished by producer Trevor Horn who in his work with, among others, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Buggles and Yes, practically defined a flashy, dramatic early 80s dance rock sound. Either Horn is trapped in his production style of 20 years ago or he realized it would work well on All The Things She Said. Regardless, his retro sound helped create a very fun final product.
Tal Bachman - She's So High
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 16 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
This is from the self titled debut from the son of Randy Bachman of BTO. It seems that every couple of months, a yuppie friendly soft rock hit comes along. The genre's recent entries include Breakfast at Tiffany, Sister Hazel's All For You and Del Amitri's Roll To Me. Like those, She's So High comes from decent musicians who aren't idiots but it's really easy listening background music.
Tantric - Astounded
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 25 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Like Breakdown, the second chart hit from the former Days Of The New members' debut CD has Hugo Ferreira doing a bad Eddie Vedder imitation. Ferreira's slurred vocal is more pretentious than Vedder at his self indulgent worst. Astounded resembles Rooster and other Alice In Chains music with its dark, serious tone, "hey, hey, hey"s and acoustic guitar that eventually changes to electric power chords. The lyrics claim "I just found my way" but that apparently doesn't include avoiding resentment to his enemies who he calls "stupid f---ers."
Tantric - Breakdown
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 6 (May 2001) buy it!
Before recording Days Of The New's second CD, frontman Travis Meeks fired the rest of the band: guitarist Todd Whitener, bassist Jesse Vest and drummer Matt Taul. Since then, Days Of The New 2 sold disappointingly and Meeks' ex-bandmates are doing well with their new band Tantric and their self titled CD. On Breakdown, the Louisville band create a potent, well produced sound with power chords, a big beat and a touch of synths. Unfortunately, the vocalist they chose, Hugo Ferreira, is just another mannered, overwrought rock singer. And Breakdown is very standard rock. Its chorus is a little like that of Bob Seger's hackneyed song with the same name. The lyrics are fairly pontless, taunting someone who seems "to have it all" and "to have control", who's losing it and trying to "find the reason that no one else is living this way."
Tantric - Mourning
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 25 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
Mourning is the third chart hit from the debut CD by the musicians who have recaptured success after getting kicked out of Days Of The New while Travis Meeks' second version of Days Of The New has sunk without a trace. It's a shame that Tantric's tale of resurrection isn't accompanied by better music. Tantric seem like decent musicians but they're making very standard angry rock. Hugo Ferreira, the singer the ex-Days picked, is just another intense, deep sub-Vedder voice. The lyric starts by claiming he's learned about himself and can deal with another woman hurting him but soon accuses her for "all the lies" and how she "conned me into thinking that all I had was you."
Taproot - Poem
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 16 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Poem is from the Michigan band's Welcome CD. Poem, made with Korn/Alice In Chains/Sevendust producer Toby Wright, has a state of the art sound. It's also like a lot of today's hard rock. Poem's driving, threatening guitar sound and touches of staccato and grunted vocal are reminiscent of Disturbed's angry, aggravating music. In general, Poem is familiar, edgy contemporary rock. Michael DeWolf's big, slashing guitar is, like the song, competent and hard rocking, but not particularly interesting. The only thing about Poem that gets my attention at all is Stephen Richards' vocal on the chorus which, especially when underlined by harmonies, has the rock theatricality of a singer like Alice In Chains' Layne Staley. Like so many rockers these days, Richards sings about his pain, telling us about an "overbearing panic attack" and a feeling that he's drowning. Poem apparently is about a bad breakup. Its good news is that the song "helps me to live."
Thalia - I Want You
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 27 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Thalia(born Ariadna Thalia Sodi Miranda) is a Mexican music and tv star and the wife of Sony music chairman(and Mariah Carey's ex-husband) Tommy Mottola. I've read that Thalia has a good voice but it's hard to tell from I Want You, the first single from Thalia, her first mostly English language record. Thalia gets the Jennifer Lopez treatment on I Want You, which was produced and cowritten by regular Lopez collaborator Cory Rooney. The blueprint generally guarantees a professional, pleasant, innocuous sound and that's the case on I Want You. I Want You has a breezy feel. It's well made and likable with a perky synth riff and crisp beat. I Want You has the obligatory star cameo presumably meant to add cred or familiarity. At least it's not Ja Rule. Fat Joe croaks a good natured, unmemorable rap. Thalia doesn't project the strong, distinctive personality of fellow Latina star Shakira. Thalia's vocal is charming but it sounds like it was flattened then enhanced in the studio. Especially in the context of the fairly dopey lyric, she comes across a bit empty headed. On I Want You, Thalia plays the Ashanti style adoring girlfriend asking herself what she did to deserve such a special man, complimenting his "sexy smile" and body that drives her wild and trying to convince him that "this love affair would be good for you and me." Trying to make Thalia seem less pathetic, Rooney has Fat Joe saying "I feel the same way."
Third Eye Blind - Anything
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 26 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Their smash hit Semi Charmed Life was an ingenious mix of rap, dance and rock music. It was somewhat contrived but had an irresistable momentum. Anything, from the band's new Blue CD, is not as distinctive or original. It is a fast punkish rock that never stops after a deceptively slow start. Anything is hardly original post punk and it seems unlikely to be a big hit but it does have a good straight ahead energy.
Third Eye Blind - Deep Inside Of You
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 15 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Third Eye Blind try to make music that can fit on as many radio formats as possible from easy listening to alternative. So it's not surprising that they follow the punky Anything and mainstream rocker Never Let You Go with a pop ballad from their Blue CD. Deep Inside Of You is like their first record's How's It Gonna Be, pleasant and sincere but a little boring. Stephan Jenkins sings about loving a woman who's messing up his life.
Third Eye Blind - Never Let You Go
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 1 (March 2000) buy it!
Sure, the guitar hook is kind of copped from the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane and the keyboards and general mood owe a little to the Cars' Just What I Needed. Never Let You Go, from the CD Blue, sounds like a hit. Like Semi Charmed Life from their first record, Never Let You Go has energy and an easy momentum. Singer Stephan Jenkins has a comfortable presence whether singing in falsetto or rapping. It's not surprising that pop fans find Never Let You Go more appealing than Blue's first single, Anything, which was fast post punk but wasn't particularly distinctive.
Thornley - So Far So Good
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 28 (June 2004) buy it!
Ian Thornley used to front Big Wreck, a band that got together at Boston's Berklee College of Music. After Big Wreck broke up, Thornley went home to Toronto and got his new band signed to the label of Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, Thornley's friend and fellow Canadian. Sadly, it seems like Kroeger's generic, calculated rock influenced Thornley's new music. So Far So Good starts pretty well. Thornley seems like a decent singer as he fluidly slides through the first verse. But soon the song falls into Nickelback style histrionics, sounding like Nickelback's numbing hit Someday. Thornley rants and emotes over thudding drums and big, indistinct guitars. As the song progresses, Thornley relies more on the tight, tough guy vocal style used by Kroeger and his ilk. Like Nickelback and so many contemporary rockers, Thornley uses the quiet verse/roaring chorus form Nirvana perfected. Thornley resembles Three Days Grace, another Canadian band. Like I Hate Everything About You, as it approaches the chorus, So Far So Good sounds like it's going to become Heart Shaped Box. So Far So Good also throws in a bit of the drama of Aerosmith's Dream On. But So Far So Good is incomparable to its much better influences. It's a bloated, contrived bore. Thornley tells us on So Far So Good that his life is hard and it always gets screwed up. Apparently, he's now faking, pretending that things are ok and living "like there's no tomorrow."
Three Days Grace - I Hate Everything About You
Weeks on Chart: 32 Peak: # 3 (May 2004) buy it!
I Hate Everything About You is on the self titled debut CD by the band originally from Norwood, Ontario, Canada. Three Days Grace are the umpteenth band to use the dynamic perfected by Nirvana. Three Days Grace seem like lots of angry, hard rocking bands. Everything About You is better than many similar songs because it's clean and focused. The fairly stripped sound has a purity of emotion and expression. The verses stick to a good, tense guitar riff. On the chorus, singer/guitar player Adam Gontier's howl is raw and heartfelt. Still, Everything About You is familiar and unsurprising. I preferred the crunching power chords alternating with raging voice thing when Kurt Cobain did it on Smells Like Teen Spirit and other better, more exciting songs. On I Hate Everything About You, Gontier recognizes the thrill and pull of a turbulent relationship but feels he's better without it.
Three Days Grace - Just Like You
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 6 (July 2004) buy it!
Just Like You is the second chart hit from Three Days Grace's self titled debut CD. Featuring Adam Gontier's ranting, I Hate Everything About You, Three Days Grace's multiformat hit, was pretty obnoxious but it was also incredibly catchy. Just Like You is mostly just obnoxious. Just Like You is well constructed, like a cynical rocker by fellow Canadiens Nickelback. With Gontier's power chords slamming in between his howls, the barrage of hard, intense sounds never abates. Young male rock fans will probably enjoy the testosterone charged head banging but Just Like You is unlikely to approach I Hate Everything About You's mainstream success. Just Like You is harsh, repetitive and unappealing. Just Like You's lyric doesn't have Everything About You's ambivalence. It's plain nasty. Gontier accuses an unnamed you, who was supposed to be "there to guide me", of being "mean", "fake", "stupid", "cold", "ruthless" and "weak."
Three Doors Down - Be Like That
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: # 4 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
The fourth chart hit from This Better Life is 3 Doors Down's inevitable rock ballad. Three Doors Down move into Matchbox 20 territory for a song a little like Push. Brad Arnold's voice doesn't have the strength and personality of Rob Thomas' but he's less showy as well. Be Like That starts with a quiet, reflective guitar. The band kicks in on the chorus but to their credit, they don't use the power chords and bombast of many rock ballads. Be Like That is quite ordinary and unremarkable but it's a decent song with strings, a mellow mood and stories of a guy dreaming he was a TV star and a homeless woman just dreaming she had "a safe home and a warm bed."
Three Doors Down - Duck And Run
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 10 (May 2001) buy it!
Kryptonite was insinuating and distinctive but the rest of This Better Life is fairly routine rock. Three Doors Down don't have the nasty edge of some of their contemporaries but they sound like Candlebox and many other young rock bands. Duck and Run, like Loser, is sturdy but uninteresting. It's the hardest of their radio songs, with big, familiar power chords. As on the band's other chart hits, Brad Arnold seriously sings about the problems he's going through. He mostly avoids self pity but Duck and Run is a fairly standard angry young man screed about an uncaring world. Arnold doesn't clarify what he won't duck and run from or why "all my work and endless measures never seem to get me very far."
Three Doors Down - Kryptonite
Weeks on Chart: 48 Peak: # 1 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Kryptonite, from the young Mississippi band's Better Life CD, is a phenomenon. It's been in the top 50 since the first week of March 2000 and was one of the biggest hits of 2000. The song's success is probably about having a slightly new, fresh sound while still seeming familiar. Kryptonite has a solid, sturdy blues rock sound, a little like the classic rock staple Radar Love. Matt Roberts' guitar line is good and incisive. Kryptonite has an easy, unpretentious feel. Brad Arnold's lyrics are appealingly understated and vulnerable. Instead of being macho, Arnold sings about having a troubled mind. He needs reassurance that even if he goes crazy, his girl will stay by his side and treat him like her Superman.
Three Doors Down - Loser
Weeks on Chart: 35 Peak: # 5 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Kryptonite, the hit from Three Doors Down's Better Life CD, has a fairly depressing lyric but it also has a light musical touch and a charmingly simple, unshowy sound. It rocks but without the lugubrious, heavy feeling of so much rock music these days. Loser is less interesting, more standard rock radio fare. Like their peers, on Loser, Three Doors Down take the serious, intense rock ballads of Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam and remake them with less personality. Loser has the formula down with serious vocals and intense acoustic verses leading to choruses with big electric guitars. They really overdo it on the bridge with big classic rock chords, for no particular reason. The lyrics are yet another mordant tale of a young man pushed to the edge. Brad Arnold sings that a woman is "getting close to pushing me off life's little ledge." The only positive note is that he also realizes "someday this will fall away" and he'll find "a love that flows through me."
Three Doors Down - The Road I'm On
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 16 (June 2003) buy it!
It's depressing that Matchbox 20 is apparently influencing other bands and even more depressing that some of those influenced are making even worse music than Matchbox 20. On The Road I'm On, from 3 Doors Down's Away From The Sun CD, Brad Arnold does the Rob Thomas troubled, tough but sensitive thing but he's not as talented as Thomas. His vocal is heavy and totally lacking in nuance. On the verses, Arnold's vocal is underlined by Matchbox like portentous guitars but instead of achieving the meaningful sound the band seeks, The Road I'm On is both overdone and lacking in substance. Power chords come in on the chorus and there's a guitar solo but there's no imagination or rock energy. The Road I'm On rocks marginally harder than a typical Matchbox 20 song but doesn't create any more excitement. The Road I'm On is boring and lame. Nothing distinguishes it from many recent serious rock ballads. Road I'm On's lyrics are fine. Arnold sings about two kindred spirits who "feel helpless", find life "hard to move in" and are "trying to find out where you belong." 3 Doors Down have some of my least favorite recent videos. When I'm Gone's video was a pathetic attempt to exploit patriotism as the Iraqi war approached. When I'm Gone's lyric is a needy, self pitying plea for a girlfriend to adore and think of Arnold every second of the day. The video unmistakably attempts to give the false impression that the song is a request for a partner to be supportive while the guy's away at war. The Road I'm On video is pretty awful too. With no war to exploit, 3 Doors Down tie into a hot movie(2 Fast 2 Furious) and a hot sport(stock car racing) with a video featuring NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr.(of the cult of Earnhardt) and Tony Stewart(famous as a great driver and bad boy) dangerously drag racing through a town in SUVs. At the risk of sounding like my mom, aren't they worried about kids trying to imitate that behavior.
The Thrills - One Horse Town
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 47 (March 2004) buy 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.
TLC - No Scrubs
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: # 49 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
There's not much to No Scrubs, from TLC's Fan Mail cd. It's just basically that chorus about the "scrub" sittin' in the passenger side of his best friend's ride coming on to her. But the slow groove is undeniable.
TLC - Unpretty
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 26 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
The message of the second single from Fanmail, about not buying into stereotypes of society and dumb guys of what makes a woman pretty, is a good one. TLC, along with the gifted producers they've made it a point to work with, make musically alluring records. Unpretty, produced by Dallas Austin, has an especially nice, light touch.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - The Last DJ
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 28 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
The Last DJ, the title track from Tom Petty's new CD, overstates things a little. There are still plenty of djs at college and independent stations who play "what they want to play" and say "what they want to say." And the fact that most stations are guided by the bottom line, rather than a quest for quality, is hardly news. The Ramones, Kinks and Elvis Costello long ago did songs about it. For at least the 25 years of Petty's career, commercial radio has rarely welcomed dj free expression. Market research and pandering play the role in music they do in the selling of movies, tv shows or political candidates though audience tastes sometimes force commercial radio to abandon its conservative instincts and play new, good or different kinds of music. The undeniable subtext of The Last DJ is the unlamentable fact that pop radio no longer plays the music of Petty and some of his contemporaries. The similarity of Last DJ to Petty's other music hardly argues against classic rock radio as the natural 2002 home for his music. Still, I agree it's sad that radio is controlled by large corporations and consultants who "celebrate mediocrity", pushing songs meant to sound like other hits and appeal to the lowest common denominator rather than good, smart or interesting music. And while The Last DJ is familiar, it's one of my favorite current songs. Petty's nasal whine is comforting and he sounds like he still has something to prove. The Heartbreakers' personnel has changed over the years but guitar player Mike Campbell is still giving Petty's songs some kick. Campbell keeps playing Rickenbacker riffs he stole from Roger McGuinn and The Byrds. He gives The Last DJ's verses texture and a good countermelody and adds urgency to the chorus with compact, crunching London Calling style chords. Longtime Heartbreaker Benmont Tench's piano helps fill out the sound and adds to Last DJ's vibrancy.
Tom Petty and the heartbreakers - Swingin'
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 13 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
This is the third chart song from TP & the Heartbreakers' solid if unspectacular Echo CD. The verse of Swingin' is classic Petty. It's well played, laid back rock with great lyrical details about an independent woman who lives life, gets in trouble but ends up O.K. The chorus, where Petty lists every jazz musician or boxer who went down swingin', is fairly annoying.
Toni Braxton - He Wasn't Man Enough
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 31 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Toni Braxton has had most of her success with big ballads. The first hit single from The Heat, Braxton's first CD in four years, is an attempt to show that she's kept up with the times. He Wasn't Man Enough is a sleek dance song with a good, light groove. But it isn't the best showcase for Braxton's vocal talents. She's stuck in a low, mannered tone. The song does do a good job of weaving her voice with more energetic backing vocals. He Wasn't Man Enough is basically the musical version of a catfight. Songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins makes Braxton seem pretty nasty. The lyric quickly makes the point that Braxton's old flame's new girl doesn't have to worry that Braxton is still interested since she let him go. Braxton's dis of the guy is so harsh that it makes her look bad as she repeatedly sings that he begged her to stay.
Tonic - Knock Down Walls
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 27 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Tonic are always fairly generic but this one about loving someone but being tired of being taken for granted rocks pretty hard. The song doesn't really go anywhere but the guitars are pretty tough.
Tonic - You Wanted More
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 6 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
From the soundtrack of the movie American Pie, it's more generic, commercial rock from the LA band. If You Could Only See was irritatingly ubiquitous a couple of years ago. This one has a little more edge but their desire to be all things to all people is illustrated by the song's opening. The music has tough rock guitar chords but the lyrics are a sappy account of what love is.
Tool - Lateralus
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 26 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
After seven months, Schism has finally ended its chart run, only to be replaced by the title track from Tool's Lateralus CD. Lateralus is a similarly angry, sprawling work. I don't find Lateralus as striking as Schism. Lateralus is typical of Tool's work as it combines art rock and heavy metal. Lateralus methodically moves forward, starting with percussive atmosphere and building into a harder sound with crunching power chords. Maynard James Keenan's howls with a great sense of meaning. But Lateralus does have good intensity and texture and Lateralus' lyrics are actually kind of hopeful. Keenan castigates himself for missing opportunities by ignoring his intuition and overthinking and overanalyzing. He urges himself to "cross the line" and look to life's "infinite possibilities."
Tool - Schism
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: # 9 (June 2001) buy it!
I've had enough of harsh rock about troubled young white guys but I have to admit that Schism, the first single from Tool's Lateralus CD, is powerful and about as good as the genre gets. Schism slowly gains in intensity through its seven dark minutes. Schism isn't fun but, despite its meaningful tone, it generally avoids pretension. Schism, coming on the heels of the three top 50 hits from A Perfect Circle's Mer De Noms, continues Maynard James Keenan's success. Keenan is also continuing to make music that's quieter and more stark than Tool's earlier work. Adam Jones' dissonant guitar line is more about atmosphere than noise. Keenan's agitated vocal sounds like he's barely controlling his rage as he sings of the disintergrating and "fundamental differing" of two lovers. As he mourns the "atrophy" of a sense of compassion", Keenan obsesses about a time when "the pieces fit."
Tori Amos - A Sorta Fairytale
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 34 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Tori Amos had some mainstream radio success with songs like God, Silent All These Years and Crucify from her early solo CDs Under The Pink and Little Earthquakes. Recently, Amos' career has taken a slightly more obscure path, concluding with 2001's Strange Little Girls, her collection of songs originally done by guys. A Sorta Fairytale, supported by a bizarre video with an oddly poignant conclusion, is Amos' first hit in the four years we've been doing the All-Reviews top 50. A Sorta Fairytale, from Amos' Scarlet's Walk CD, is a nice reminder of Amos' gift for mixing melody, classicism and eccentricity. A Sorta Fairytale shows Amos' ability to subtly grab our attention. A Sorta Fairytale starts quietly with Amos' delicate piano playing and an effective, fairly inobtrusive drum machine beat. It builds a little on the chorus which has David Torn's good, simple guitar riff. A Sorta Fairytale also varies its subdued sound with a slightly brighter bridge. Amos sings slowly. Her vocal is restrained but her thoughtful, interesting personality still shines through. A Sorta Fairytale's sound matches its lyrics. Amos sadly relates how an apparent "life long thing" relationship was lost.
Toya - I Do
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 32 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
I Do, from the St. Louis singer's debut Toya CD, is fairly standard dance pop with a familiar story of a woman trying to entice "a six foot stallion with the story of a thug" that she sees on the dance floor. I Do isn't ground breaking but it does have a pretty interesting, steady sound with chiming effects and a minimal, percussive beat.
Tracy Chapman - Telling Stories
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 28 (April 2000) buy it!
On her new CD, Chapman shows her weakness of often taking things a little too seriously. She relaxes a little on the title track. A nice loose electric guitar keeps things moving. Telling Stories also shows the positive side of Chapman's seriousness. Her writing and singing is characteristically simple, direct and poignant as she tells how a lie can be better than the truth.
Tracy Chapman - Wedding Song
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 46 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Tracy Chapman usually seems so serious that sweet isn't an adjective normally connected with her. However Wedding Song, the second chart song from her Telling Stories CD, is simple and sweet. The music is fairly undramatic but her voice is strong and real as she sings that no matter what situation she imagines, she always sees her partner "right beside me." She expresses a refreshing sense of trust, placing her faith in her love and expressing a willingness "to think not only of myself but of the greater union."
Tracy Chapman - You're The One
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 41 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
On her self titled 1988 debut CD, Tracy Chapman was a striking new talent making music that was political and personal. She seemed to have the potential to move folk music in exciting new directions. Chapman has since made pleasant, thoughtful music but the deeper she gets into career, the more her work leaves the impression of unfulfilled potential. You're The One, from the Let It Rain CD, has a sweet Chapman vocal and a nice, positive feel but it's so lightweight and unambitious it's barely noticable. I assume Chapman is trying to pare her music to its essentials but she's also pared away what can be interesting about her writing and music. You're The One's lyric is charming. Chapman promises to stand by a lover who others say is crazy, uncouth and no good.
Train - Calling All Angels
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: # 8 (July 2003) buy it!
When they first broke through, Train at least presented themselves as a rock band. As Train's career has progressed, it's become clear that their music is made for easy listening radio. Drops Of Jupiter showed Train's gift for making music appropriate for elevators, dentist offices and yuppie background music. With its slathering of strings, Drops Of Jupiter was smooth and soothing but also sickly sweet. My first impression of Calling All Angels, the first single from the My Private Nation CD, was that it was more fairly empty lite rock. But further listens have shown that the sound has impressive depth. Calling All Angels is similar to Something More, from the Drops Of Jupiter CD. Something More clearly resembled psychedelic late period Beatles. Calling All Angels also has a layered, carefully constructed sound that is even more rich and rewarding. Unlike Something More, where the band didn't seem to know where to go after introducing their musical ideas, Calling All Angels continues to grow in power as it moves towards its conclusion Brendan O'Brien, who has produced dozens of good rock records by artists including Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Matthew Sweet, played on and produced Calling All Angels. I like the patient pace, Scott Underwood's big beat and the piano that fills out the striking soundcape. Calling All Angels reaches a majestic conclusion with a blanket of joyful voices. Calling All Angels isn't perfect. Pat Monahan's vocal generally matches the song's hopeful, optimistic tone but he can also sound like a mediocre mannered rock singer, especially when repeatedly invoking the "I won't give up if you don't give up" hook. The lyric's attempts at social commentary like "my tv set just keeps it all from being clear" and "football teams are kissing queens and losing sight of having dreams" are pretty lame. The whole idea of calling for a sign of angelic presence in troubled times is pretty sappy. But the positive, yearning music goes beyond the lyric in creating an appealing feeling.
Train - Drops Of Jupiter
Weeks on Chart: 36 Peak: # 1 (June 2001) buy it!
If Black Crowes' Chris Robinson was in a really good mood and fronted an upbeat piano based Bruce Hornsby song, it would sound a little like Drops Of Jupiter, the title track from Train's new CD. Like Meet Virginia, it's a tribute to a complicated lady but Drops Of Jupiter is even sunnier than Train's first hit. Drops Of Jupiter has soaring strings and not much of an edge. The lyrics, which compare love to "the best soy latte that you ever had", don't hide their lightweight, yuppie side. Still, Drops Of Jupiter has good energy and it's hard to resist the positive vibe as Pat Monahan recites the attributes of woman whose growth convinces him "there's time to change."
Train - I Am
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 22 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
As I Am entered the chart, Meet Virginia was finally falling down the chart. I Am is a little more rocking but it still shows Train's ability to make music that appeals to a broad audience.
Train - Meet Virginia
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: # 12 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Train are enjoying a long chart life with this single from their self titled debut. Different radio formats and listeners keep discovering this likeable, unpretentious loving tribute to an idiosyncratic, somewhat screwed woman. Meet Virginia isn't ground breaking but it has a nice low key southern rock tinged feel which is only broken when things get a little too heavy towards the end as singer Patrick Monahan screams about how Virginia doesn't want to live this life and then the song goes into a heavy guitar solo.
Train - She's On Fire
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 20 (March 2002) buy it!
She's On Fire is the third chart hit from the Drops Of Jupiter CD by genial San Francisco yuppie rockers Train. She's On Fire has Train's usual smooth, likable sound. It has good, easy boogie guitar lines. But She's On Fire is even more lightweight and insignificant than most of their work. She's On Fire sounds a little like Train's breakthrough hit Meet Virginia without that song's leisurely, quirky charm. She's On Fire also has less detail about the song's object of affection than Meet Virginia. On She's On Fire, Train just want to keep getting back to the innocuous chorus. Pat Monahan's vocal is typically pleasant but a little bland as he sings about a woman who "is truly fine to see" and "is surely blinding" to be.
Train - Something More
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 14 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
It's easy to write off Train as a boring, if tuneful, yuppie band but they sometimes do fairly interesting things withing a pop context. Something More resembles late period psychedelic Beatles or, more accurately, the hundreds of songs other bands have modeled on later Beatles music. As the strings get bigger and the song just repeats itself, Train's easy listening tendencies become more obvious. Still, Something More, from the Drops Of Jupiter CD, is tuneful and it gets a decent edge from an unrushed pace and a good, dense texture with a thick bass line. On Something More, Pat Monahan is depressed and ready to move on from a relationship with a woman who's never satisfied.
Transplants - Diamonds and Guns
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 48 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Transplants are led by Rancid singer/guitar player Tim Armstrong and his pal Rob "SR" Aston and features Blink-182's Travis Barker on drums. Transplants self titled debut is anarchic fun. Diamonds and Guns has turned out to be a timely tribute to The Clash's Joe Strummer, who died late last year. Rancid's music clearly showed the influence of The Clash. Diamond And Guns, with its unpolished sound, jagged blasts of guitar and Armstrong's rough, slurred vocal evokes The Clash's looser music and seems like another sign of love for the band. The way Armstrong's singing alternates with Aston's cocky rap brings to mind the partnership of rocker Strummer and dance music fan Mick Jones. Both liked to bring elements of black music into their punk. With its positive energy and rollicking western flavored piano sample, Diamonds and Guns has a fun, goofy feel. Diamonds and Guns has a silly lyric that feels like a bad version of a Tarantino movie, with brags about "taking more shots than Karl Malone", showy evocations of drug dealers and philosophizing about the morality of cops, criminals and businessmen.
Trapt - Echo
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 22 (March 2004) buy it!
Echo is the third chart hit from Trapt's self titled CD. Trapt's Headstrong was one of the biggest hits of 2003. Headstrong was fairly typical angry rock but it had a big, powerful sound. Chris Brown's vocal shifted in and out of rage mode with the suppleness of a decent rapper. Echo also shows signs Trapt may be more interesting than some hard rock bands. Trapt is less loud and furious than Still Frame, Trapt's other top 50 hit, and Headstrong. It has decent contrast. The verse has an open, dreamy sound that floats on a rotating keyboard riff. It's like a verse by Incubus(who also have a song called Echo) but Brown's anchored vocal makes sure it's not quite as spacy. Power chords soon come in, effectively adding heft without overwhelming Echo's searching feel. Trapt are hardly the first band to use the quiet/loud contrast that Nirvana and other grungers popularized and many 21st century rockers have copied. The fluid doodling that Simon Ormandy does before and during the verses is interesting but it sounds a lot like what he did on Headstrong. Brown doesn't scream on Echo like he does on other songs but he's still very serious. His singing doesn't communicate the lyric's joy and energy. Echo isn't that different from other serious midtempo rock but it sounds good. Echo has a personal, varied sound and it isn't too showy or overdone. On Echo, Brown accepts that he "can't change the past I hold inside" and decides to "let go of this pride" and "run away with you by my side."
Trapt - Headstrong
Weeks on Chart: 50 Peak: # 1 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Headstrong is from the California band's self titled major label debut. Headstrong holds some hints that Trapt could be more interesting than other nu-metal bands. The sound isn't as cluttered or murky as that of some of their contemporaries. The verses are pretty good. Chris Brown's vocal is smooth and quick with a rapper's sensibility. The vocal is nicely underlined by Simon Ormandy's light, loose guitar. The chorus is effective but less interesting as Brown and Ormandy's trade short, jagged thrusts of guitar. Brown's angry croon is awfully familiar. In the end, not much distinguishes Headstrong from intense rap metal by Linkin Park, Papa Roach and many others. Headstrong is competently made but not particularly likable or interesting. Headstrong apparently announces a break with an ambitious musical associate who won't change his wrong ideas.
Trapt - Still Frame
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 7 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
When I first heard Headstrong, the first single from the California band's self titled major label CD, I thought that they could stand out from other nu-metal bands. I saw that Chris Brown did quick, confident vocals that had a fluid hip hop sensibility and that Simon Ormandy had a versatile guitar style that allowed him to move from heavy metal crunching to light, artier playing. Still, I thought that Headstrong was like a lot of other rap metal and didn't foresee that it would become one of the most successful rock songs of the year. Obviously, a lot of people were impressed by the catchy, stomping chorus and the way Brown shifted from loose verses to an enraged scream. At the risk of being wrong again, I don't think Still Frame is remarkable. Brown has a strong voice and his raging isn't as silly or annoying as that of some of his fellow troubled rockers. Still Frame is a smooth ride. The sound flows easily from section to section with a fairly subtle guitar sound that has some decent variations. But Still Frame doesn't have much personality. It passes by innoucuously. The most noticable part is the chorus but Brown's "please help me because I'm breaking down" chant and the crunching guitars that underline it are very familiar from similar angry, confused rock songs. Brown sings on Still Frame about feeling lost and like he's losing it and "falling farther away from where I want to be."
Travis - Side
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 47 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Travis still haven't really had their U.S. commercial breakthrough and the UK sales of their Invisible Band CD haven't reached those of their massive The Man Who but their music, if anything, is improving. As with The Man Who, I find much of the latest CD too blandly mellow but I enjoy The Invisible Band's U.S. singles: Sing and Side. It makes sense that Side took months to make the top 50. It's subtle and not flashy but holds up to repeat listens. Side has a good, textured sound with layered, chiming guitars and light, airy keyboards. Fran Healy's vocals are typically modest and unspectacular. The lyrics are OK; they advise us not to get hung up on envy and foolish goals and to realize "there is no wrong, there is no right."
Travis - Sing
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 47 (June 2001) buy it!
Travis hasn't come close in the U.S. to matching the incredible success they've had in the UK. I thought their The Man Who CD was mostly a yawner. Sing, from the new Invisible Band CD, isn't too exciting either but it is quite nice. A banjo and Fran Healy's vocal create a positive mood. Sing is very simple. Healy encourages someone who's going through a tough time to look on the bright side and share her love with the world.
Travis - Why Does It Always Rain On Me
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 42 (June 2000) buy it!
Travis have replaced Oasis as the biggest pop band in the U.K. To an extent, Travis seem like the anti-Oasis. Oasis are always internally feuding and seem obnoxious and arrogant. Except when their lyrics are dissing Oasis and others, Travis came across as polite and unassuming. Oasis' music is often based on electric guitar and psychedelic era Beatles. Travis is much mellower. Their Man Who CD is pleasant but hardly rocking. Why Does It Always Rain On Me, based around an acoustic guitar and violin, is typical of the Travis sound. The singing and lyrics are sad and sincere. Fran Healy sings that he can't stand himself and is unable to find peace even when "everybody says everything's alright." He seems serious when he asks if his luck is bad because he lied when he was 17.
Trey Anastasio - Alive Again
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 46 (July 2002) buy it!
While Phish is on hiatus, frontman Trey Anastasio has worked on a number of projects. Alive Again is from Anastasio's self titled debut solo record. While Phish has been around for more than a decade and have a huge following, they still seem to work in Grateful Dead's shadow. Alive Again isn't Anastasio's most Dead-like work but it does stay within the format of starting with a fairly simple song then letting bandmembers riff around. Still, Anastasio has made a move away from The Dead and Phish with the jazzy flavor of his solo work. Alive Again is fairly slight but it has a very good, cool mood and strong playing. Alive Again maintains a very appealing, relaxed sound with steady, atmospheric percussion, a big horn sound and Anastasio's likably unassuming singing and guitar playing. On Alive Again, Anastasio asks for a "review" and some signs of action from someone waiting on the fence, hoping to feel alive again.
Trik Turner - Friends And Family
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 23 (April 2002) buy it!
Friends and Family, from the Phoenix band's self titled CD, is similar to Everlast's hits in using a spare sound for a very serious, heartfelt account. You can't argue with the song's premise that what really matters is the love of your friends and family though that message is surrounded by less appealing lines about keeping a(presumably musical) dream alive by overcoming the odds and those who criticize. Friends And Family has a striking, atmospheric sound, with a simple beat and minimal keyboards. But, especially after repeat listens, I find the song too solemn and, while it sounds like it's about something important, it's not actually that interesting.
Trust Company - Downfall
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 10 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Downfall, from the Montgomery, Alabama band's The Lonely Position Of Neutral CD, is quite ingenious. Like music by Korn, Tool, Deftones and so many others, it has intense atmosphere and a troubled, wailing singer. But Downfall also has a sleek, catchy chorus. Downfall hits both of its musical styles pretty well. The verse, with Kevin Palmer doing an agitated vocal over rumbling bass, is pretty routine but it gains impressive power as, just before it segues into the chorus, the guitars begin to hammer and Palmer howls 'fall". The chorus is striking with appealing harmonies layered over basic but effective hard rock guitars. The lyrics are fairly standard contemporary rock fare but Palmer's agitation seems real. He sings about being tormented by fear and of hiding a volatile "other side of me." Downfall is familiar, competent hard rock with a refreshing touch of distinctiveness.
Tweet - Oops(Oh My)
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 39 (May 2002) buy it!
Oops is from the Southern Hummingbird CD by Timbaland/Missy Elliot protégé Tweet. Oops got attention because of its teasing lyrics but it also has a striking sound. Oops' repeated horn sample and woody percussive beat give it a swirling, vaguely exotic, though mechanical, feel similar to that of some of Elliott's work. The music matches Oops' mysterious theme. Oops is too cute and coy in revealing that Tweet's pleasure comes from masturbating alone but the tale of enjoying her body is undeniably sexy. Tweet's vocal is appropriately cool and confident.
Twista - Slow Jamz
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 30 (March 2004) buy 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.