March 2013

A.J. Kriss feat. Sonny Boy W. – “I’m Trying to Make London My New Home” – (2012)

To finish off “U.K. Week” I picked this relatively new track from A.J. Kriss and Sonny Boy W. I really don’t know much of anything about either artist (Sonny Boy Williamson (the second one) recorded a song by this title, but there is a guy in the video who is obviously still alive singing it. I guess there might be a third Sonny Boy? In any case, I don’t know the origins of this song, sorry. It’s a little too new to have much out there on it). But I do know that this song has a mix of musical styles I’ve never heard before. Electronic beats can be added to most anything to make something “dance-y” or more upbeat. But the blues? It’s such a weird sound but it’s done so well that you can’t help but get into it. Plus, I actually tried to make London my home (and failed – no one would hire me). I would still like to though, and this can be my theme.

Oasis – “Don’t Go Away” – (1997)

Oasis is one of the best bands that Britain has ever produced (this week kind of has a British theme). Britpop tracks like this is what they did best. It’s not quite an “epic weepy” like some of their other songs, but it’s still a song about loss – a break-up song. Liam’s vocals are really good and it really encapsulates Oasis’ 90s sound and is my favorite track from 1997’s Be Here Now – their final album of the 1990s. This song was a big hit in the U.S. – hitting #5 on the Modern Rock chart.

Madness – “Baggy Trousers” – (1980)

Madness is an awesome band. They put out some awesome songs in the 1980s. This is one of the most famous. It came out during a time when ska revival was in its prime and New Wave was just getting started. There’s also some punk in there as well. Madness was one of the leading bands of the ska punk scene (originating with 2 Tone, which throws New Wave in there too). One reason I like Madness is that they’re fun – their songs aren’t dark and depressing – they’re upbeat and happy. And you really can’t get much more upbeat and happy than a song like this, about baggy trousers of all things.

Alex Kenji & Ron Carroll – “Good Time (A-Lab Radio Edit)” – (2012)

Here’s a semi-random electronic tune from Italian Alex Kenji and American Ron Carroll. While there is a decent, albeit tame, house beat – it’s the lyrics that really give this song a broader appeal. There’s not a lot of thump and crazy effects (that otherwise characterized house music in 2012). The lyrics are a little repetitive but they’re delivered in an upbeat pop music style that just sounds good. It’s able to both relax you and pump you up simultaneously. This song wasn’t a hit, so to speak, but just a random song I came across online. Give it a listen and make up your own mind.

Toad the Wet Sprocket – “All I Want” – (1991)

Mmm, early-90s alternative rock. At the height of grunge, there were still bands out there performing less angst-y, more pop-y rock n roll. There was a wonderful type of music produced in a short-lived era of about 1991-1997 that songs like this exemplify. I miss it dearly. This was the first successful single from Toad the Wet Sprocket, peaking at #15 on the Hot 100. It is also one of two tracks by the band that still pops up on radio airwaves every now and then. It’s a 1990s pop rock classic.

Stephanie Mills – “Never Knew Love Like This Before” – (1980)

This Grammy Award-winning disco tune from 1980 was the biggest hit if Stephanie Mills’ career. It still gets regular radio airplay and could be considered one of the definitive songs typical of this sound – it’s right up there with Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer. Except that Stephanie Mills isn’t nearly as widely known. This is a song that I didn’t have for a long time until – even hearing it on the radio I always assumed that of course I have it. You’ll most likely recognize it instantly.

Maverick Sabre – “No One” – (2012)

Maverick Sabre has not yet made the Atlantic crossing that some of his British peers have. When I first heard this song and watched the video, I, in my mind, compared him to Plan B. But he doesn’t exactly rap in this song. It actually has a much more Amy Winehouse-vibe going on. The song is really good and the chorus really catchy. I recommend giving it a try.

20 Fingers feat. Gillette – “Mr. Personality” – (1995)

God, Gillette is so obnoxious. It’s really hard to think of another artist who can be so nerve-grating. The main vocals aren’t so bad – but when she raps – or even worse, when she laughs, it just makes me want to throw something at my speakers. That said, this song certainly has a certain catchiness to it. And that’s all this song really is – a catchy chorus and then Gillette yelling “yo mama” jokes at you. It’s like an insult song. But that was kind of 20 Fingers’ shtick: catchy pop/dance tunes (they were Dutch) accented by “humorous” lyrics. Things are open to interpretation almost 20 years later.

Van Halen – “When It’s Love” – (1988)

This was Van Halen’s last major hit of the 1980s. It was a #1 on the Modern Rock chart and a top five on the Hot 100. It’s a power ballad and used lead singer #2, Sammy Hagar. If you listen too closely to the music, it can definitely sound a bit dated, but overall the song really isn’t that bad. As far as Sammy Hagar tracks go, this is one of the best.

Carrie Underwood – “Flat on the Floor” – (2007)

I hate American Idol and I don’t really love country music. But I really like Carrie Underwood. While most of her songs are country or country/pop – they all seem to have a little rock edge to them (or at least the ones I like and know). This is the lead track from her 2007 album Carnival Ride and it wasn’t even a single. I’ve still heard it on the radio and it could’ve been an official single and done just as well as some of the others. Carrie is the best thing American Idol has produced.

Eve 6 – “Tongue Tied” – (1998)

As Monday’s song was sappy, this song is awesome. Eve 6 was known for “Inside Out” which got all the airplay off their self-titled debut album. But “Tongue Tied” is more alternative rock – or, at least, the late-90s version of alternative rock. It kicks-ass in the same way those Third Eye Blind hits kick ass. The video stars a young Katie Holmes and is mega-1998: the clothes, the hairstyles, the VCR in the classroom. Gah, the good old days.

Stephen Bishop – “It Might Be You” – (1982)

This pop song from Stephen Bishop is a song that sort of defines bad early-80s pop music. It kind of sounds like a sappy jingle written as the theme song to a TV show set in 1981 in some cold place like Chicago. I can picture people’s faces popping up with the actor’s names in big white letters below them. Does that make any sense? I’m close – it was featured in the movie Tootsie. It’s still sappy though.

The Rolling Stones – “Doom and Gloom” – (2012)

Geriatrics they may be (try to focus on Noomi Rapace in the music video and not the band) the Stones can apparently still throw together a pretty solid rock-n-roll track. This is the first time that Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood have been in the studio together in seven years. And Mick Jagger’s voice is still very awkward when he has to hold a vowel (gloooooooom) – but that’s always been the case. The point being: had I not known better, I would’ve guessed this song was much older than it actually is. Because it’s brand new (end of 2012). The biggest downside? If you want the “new” album, you have to buy a glorified Greatest Hits album. I think the Rolling Stones have now put out as many Greatest Hits albums as they have original ones.