Music from My Trip to Europe

Akcent – “That’s My Name” – (2009)

Here’s something you probably haven’t heard. Hell, here’s a genre you probably haven’t heard – Romanian dance-pop. Akcent is a group of three guys from Bucharest, Romania who have been performing Romania’s signature electro-pop sound since 1999. It has that accordion-gypsy feel to it. Sure, it’s otherwise just bubble-gum pop music with crap lyrics. But the feel of the music is what it’s all about – closing your eyes and hearing those Mediterranean sounds that put you in a very European mood. It’s one of my favorite things and the reason I listen to music like this.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Jefferson Jericho Blues” – (2010)

Mojo was the first studio album by Tom Petty with The Heartbreakers since 2002. It is also the first album since 1981 to feature the band’s original bassist on every track. The album isn’t along the lines of previous Petty albums, as it is primarily blues-based. This is the first track on the album and it’s a good one. People may say Petty peaked in the 80s or 90s – but songs like this show he is a true rocker, capable of producing solid rock tracks – good music – and will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.

Scouting for Girls – “This Ain’t a Love Song” – (2010)

And the final track this week from the Songs-That-Were-Big-In-The-U.K.-But-Never-Appeared-On-U.S.-Radio file is this. This was Scouting for Girls’ first #1 in the U.K. and I think I can safely say they’ve never been played on American radio. It’s a fine song… something that could’ve been written in the 90s (that is a huge compliment). It’s not quite Oasis as there is not enough infighting in the band. I wish there were more songs like this topping the charts – in the U.K., U.S. or anywhere. It’s a great change of pace from the never ending stream of hip-hop.

Lily Allen – “Alfie” – (2006)

This song is apparently about Lily’s brother, Alfie and his being lazy. The song is quite catchy with Lily’s soft voice and children’s song-type beat. I read somewhere that it reminded the reviewer of a fairground song and that’s about as perfect description as I’ve seen. There really isn’t much to say about this song other than it’s fun. I hope that’s not what I said about Monday’s song… but I think it is. I’ll have to come up with something more original for Friday. And yes, I realize that since I’ve started incorporating videos in the post, they can’t be played on this site. That’s what I get for trying to link to the “official” video because I thought it would be more stable than a user-uploaded video. But if you click through you can still listen to it and watch the video. Next week, when I go back to the 80s, it’ll be as it used to be, just the link.

Roll Deep feat. Jodie Connor – “Good Times” – (2010)

Grime is a type of music that I can best describe as garage band meets hip-hop. It’s like garage hip-hop. Roll Deep consists of a handful (okay, more than a handful) or members, none of whom are more famous on their own. Dizzee Rascal was in the group at its beginning and this song kind of sounds like he’s still there. This was a #1 single in the U.K. and made no waves in the U.S. It’s a fun song.

Chantal Chamberland – “La Mer” – (2009)

We’ll finish this week off with a little more French music. Chantal Chamberland is a talented jazz singer from Canada and “La Mer” is a classic French song written in 1943. If it sounds familiar (minus the lyrics), it’s because Bobby Darin used the music, quite successfully, in his song “Beyond the Sea.” The songs are not translated versions of each other – they’re two different songs, lyrically, with the same music. Chamberland’s version of “La Mer” is about as good as they come.

Beltuner – “Improbable” – (2008)

A few weeks ago I posted this song – but with no way for you to hear it. I’ve fixed that. Enjoy.

Beltuner – “No Comment (Original)” – (2008)

A few weeks ago, I posted the song “Improbable” by French group Beltuner. I had no link to the song for you to hear and have since remedied that issue. I’ll feature that song on Wednesday, but today is something new: “No Comment.” It’s your standard Parisian café music. ‘Standard’ sounds like a bad thing, but in this case it isn’t.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – “No Woman, No Cry” – (1974)

The live version of this song is pretty famous – as it’s the version included on the Legend compilation album. I prefer the studio version (as is almost always the case with every song). This is another fairly popular Marley song and one known by the walking human Bob Marley jukebox. Good song – especially when they break down at the “everything’s gonna be all right” part.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Redemption Song” – (1980)

One of the people I was on the trip with was a walking Bob Marley jukebox. She could sing any of his songs on command. This is an easy one to sing because when Bob did it (originally) it was acoustic and just him and a fairly quiet guitar. There was a full band version released in 2001 (and it’s pretty good – definitely more upbeat than this version).

Brandon Flowers – “Crossfire” – (2010)

Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers, released his debut solo album in 2010. The first time I heard this song was on DeeJay TV in La Spezia, Italy. And it took us a few minutes to figure out that he was, in fact, the lead singer of The Killers (the song, which is really good, sounds like something from The Killers, but a little more mellow). What took longer to figure out – actually I still haven’t figured it out – was why Charlize Theron was in the music video. Oh, well… eye candy.

Michael Bublé – “Home” – (2005)

One my way to Europe, when I arrived in Toronto to catch my connecting flight, the first song I heard playing in the airport concourse was a Michael Bublé song. It seemed expected nothing less. When I got to the airport in Toronto to catch the final flight of my journey, this was the song I listened to, waiting in some far away section of the airport for the little commuter jets. It was like 7 in the morning and there was hardly anyone there. It was weird being home. And I want to go back. We’ll be back in a week or so with some more hits from the 80s, 90s, or maybe some other decade. Maybe we’ll start another countdown. We’ll see what I feel like in a week or so…

Rush – “Tom Sawyer” – (1981)

From my favorite Canadian band – to my not-so-favorite. I don’t know what it is about Rush, but they just bore me. This is one of their most popular/most well known songs and it’s heavy on the synthesizer (but hey, it was the 80s). “Today’s Tom Sawyer – He gets high on you.” I don’t know what that means. I do like the opening lyrics, however: “A modern day warrior – mean, mean stride. Today’s Tom Sawyer – mean, mean pride.” Don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but I kinda like it. True story: within one hour of driving across the border from Washington state to British Colombia one summer, this song came on a Canadian radio station. Which I kinda expected.

Barenaked Ladies – “It’s All Been Done” – (1998)

This is my favorite BNL song. And what does it have to do with being in Europe (besides the lyric “I met you before the fall of Rome”)? Nothing. On my return journey I stopped in Toronto and the Barenaked Ladies are my favorite Canadian band. And after 7 weeks, it had all been done. Well, not really – I’d still love to go back but I accomplished a lot and saw even more. The rumor is that Steven Page wrote this song because “Brian Wilson” was “too wordy” and he wanted to use something like “who ooh ooh” in the chorus – and it’s catchy as hell. The lyrics are really great regardless of how simple they are supposed to be. Way to go Steven Page! Now let him rejoin the band!

Lady Gaga – “Alejandro” – (2009)

I know, I know, “Two Lady Gaga songs in a row? Really?” Yeah, this is it, I promise. “Alejandro” was released as a single in late May of 2010. Where I live, songs make the radio about 3 months after they do everywhere else, so I never got to hear this before I left the continent. I remember seeing the video on DeeJay TV in Venice and thought it was catchy. So now, whenever I hear it, I think of sitting in a restaurant at about midnight in Venice. The owner was nice enough to still be open for a handful of Americans who were strolling around in the mind-boggling heat and humidity after 11:30 at night looking for dinner. It was the follow-up single to “Bad Romance” and it is better than that song. “Ale-Ale-Alejandro…”

Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance” – (2009)

This song had been out for quite some time by the time I was looking at heading home from Europe. Whenever I think of this song I think of one person I was with and she would sing the “Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah” part of this song (the catchy part). The song isn’t anything special. It’s definitely better than Lady Gaga’s first two big singles but they’ve gotten better since.

Dean Martin – “That’s Amore” – (1953)

I hear this song every time I eat at The Olive Garden. So I thought, when I go to Italy, this is the type of thing they’ll be playing while I eat. Wrong! I ate at a decently sized restaurant in Venice and what were they playing? Mariah Carey and Enigma. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But seriously, if someone opened an Olive Garden in Rome they’d be rich. The food in that part of Italy doesn’t have a lot of flavor. It’s actually kind of bland. I didn’t make it to Sicily, but I suspect things improve as you head south. Song-wise, they don’t come much better than this. Take it away, Dino!

N*E*R*D feat. Nelly Furtado – “Hot-N-Fun” – (2010)

While visiting Cinque Terre, we stayed in nearby La Spezia (just south of Riomaggiore). Each morning while waiting for each other to get ready so we could walk across the street to the train station from our hotel, we’d flip on the TV. There was one channel we could kind of understand and that was DeeJay TV (the station we saw Lady Gaga on in Venice). I remember seeing the video for this song and absolutely falling in love with the song. Still, a year later, I listen to the song at least weekly. Almost every time I hear it I think back to La Spezia and wish so hard that I was still there.

Jack Johnson – “You and Your Heart” – (2010)

I didn’t really know what to expect from the radio stations in Italy. I didn’t get a feel for it in Venice (I saw a Lady Gaga music video on TV, “Alejandro,” I think). We visited Cinque Terre, the national park that consists of 5 picturesque towns on the Italian Riviera (I highly recommend it). Anyway, our first full day there, we got off the train and walked through the tunnel into Riomaggiore (the southernmost of the 5 towns). When we walked out of tunnel we were in the upper part of the town and this song was blaring from a large patio area that overlooks the lower part of town. There was an unattended tent from a local radio station (whose name and call letters I forget) and it was playing this song. I found it kind of odd that this is what they were listening to, but it is on the coast and Jack Johnson is definitely coastal music.

Fiorello & the Guy Barker International Quintet feat. Jude Law & Matt Damon – “Tu Vuo’ Fa L’Americano” – (1999)

This song was originally written in 1956 by, guess who, Renato Carosone. This is my favorite version of it. It featured Jude Law and Matt Damon singing from the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley (which is an awesome movie). This song was – in a way – very popular during 2010. Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP used it in their hugely popular “We No Speak Americano.” When I think “Italian songs,” I immediately think of “Tu Vuo’ Fa L’Americano.”

Renato Carosone – “Mambo Italiano” – (1954)

Guess what country we’ve moved to this week. Italy! I heard a Frenchwoman say that “the Italians are just like the French – but happy.” And it’s true. There’s just something about being in Italy that makes you happy. I was walking around Venice singing this song – except for whatever reason I was substituting “Janet Napolitano” for “Mambo Italiano.” At the time I had no idea who she was and looked it up later (she’s the Secretary of Homeland Security in the U.S.). It was kind of the theme for Italy while I was there. The album cover to the right is a picture from La Dolce Vita – a film that romanticizes Italy like nothing else. I ate at a gelato shop in Rome called La Dolce Vita (which means: “The Sweet Life”). Also, when I walked past the Trevi Fountain, I wanted to go running through it. Renato Carosone was kind of the king of Italian music throughout the 50s and later. This is probably his best.

Edward Maya feat. Vika Jigulina – “Stereo Love” – (2009)

Well there’s a reason this song has over 126 million views on YouTube. It is the longest charting song in the European Hot 100’s history (46 weeks), with 17 of those at #1. The song first appeared in 2009 and rocked the spring and summer of 2010. It didn’t peak in the United States until 2011. Edward Maya is Romanian, and the rumor you hear whispered in Europe is that Romania has the best dance clubs. With guys like Maya out there, I believe it. This song was absolutely huge. The video was shot in Greece, which isn’t in Spain, but the Mediterranean coast is pretty amazing regardless of where you’re viewing it. I can think of few better “summer songs” than this. It’s awesome.

K’naan – “Wavin’ Flag” – (2009)

K’naan is a Somali-born Canadian rapper. How many Somalian singers do you know? Anyway, “Wavin’ Flag” was one of the official songs for the 2010 World Cup. Actually, I believe that “Waka Waka” was the official official song. This was Coca-Cola’s official promotional song. Anyway, it reeks of soccer, football, futbol or whatever you wanna call it. It also is very international sounding – and just about every country had their own remix of the song. So what does this have to do with Spain? I was in Spain the day before they won the 2010 World Cup. It was about to get crazy. I was rooting for Holland.

Energpisy – “Joselito” – (1999)

“Joselito” is an instrumental flamenco song. Flamenco music originated in Spain in the 18th century and today has become famous for featuring amazing guitar work. And adding Flamenco + Spain = Flamenco dancers, which I expected to see everywhere (which was a dumb thing to expect). I did see one in Park Guell in Barcelona. This is the kind of music you hear in your mind walking around Spain – or the kind of music you hear on some kind of travel documentary while a camera man is walking around Spain.

Shakira feat. Dizzee Rascal – “Loca” – (2010)

“Waka Waka” may have been the song of the summer from a European perspective, but Shakira wasn’t ready to call it a year. I know “Loca” wasn’t technically released until September, a month after I returned, but the music video was shot in Barcelona. There are two versions of this, the English and Spanish version. The Spanish version features El Cata doing the rap, the English has Dizzee Rascal. This is both of the performers’ second song on this list and it has exhausted my knowledge of Dizzee Rascal’s discography. “Loca” is a good summer song and the video showcases the beach in Barcelona, which Discovery Channel ranked as the third best beach in the world. Maybe, but it’s way crowded.

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