Unfortunately, floods are back in the news. Over 20 million people in Pakistan have been impacted by the high water and more than 1,500 people have been reported dead. Here in America, recent flooding has caused a far less severe toll, but it has caused serious damage to places like Ames, Iowa. There is nothing fun or funny about floods, but keeping one’s spirits up in the face of disaster has merit. This clip of the late, great Johnny Cash singing (with help from Biff),a song about an historic flood, “Five Feet High and Rising”, on Sesame Street should keep us humming while thinking of what we can best do to help those in need.
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The Marches is the brainchild of Richard Conti, and boy does he know his way around a pop hook. His band’s debut album—last year’s 4AM is the New Midnight—mixed lo-fi electro-pop with horn blasts that sound like they were recorded by the Dap-Kings themselves, the whole disc a genre-hopping mishmash of what makes DIY rock music so great.
Conti has said that the whole album was recorded on borrowed amps and borrowed time, which is perhaps why it’s taken awhile for the band to put out their second release, the Director of Photography EP, which consists of left-field covers of artists from all across the rock spectrum.
Two of the covers appear right from CokeMachineGlow’s excellent “Fantasy Covers” podcasts, the first being a fantastic rejiggering of Thom Yorke’s “Black Swan”, which uses loud cymbal taps, multi-tracked vocals, and some melancholy flutes and clarinets to get the original’s theme of displacement down pat. Conti’s take on Adele’s “Cold Shoulder”, meanwhile, is about as pounding and visceral a reimagining as you can imagine (listen to them horns wail!).
The album is bookened by two very understated tunes: the first being a take on little-known songwriter Ben Durdle’s “Big City” (full disclosure: this track appeared on a tribute album this writer served as Executive Producer for), which turns a voice-and-guitar original into a mournful hymn filled with female choirs and moody church organs. Wisely closing with a understated in-studio version of 4AM‘s “Need Me Back”, it soon becomes clear that whether he’s interpreting other people’s songs or even his own, Conti is slowly maturing into a pop music force to be reckoned with.
All that was ever lacking from Springfield Missouri’s, SSLYBY output was better production and a little more rocking spirit. Let It Sway has both. Wonderful melodies and hooks have never been lacking from the band’s songs and they are in abundance here as well. Only now there is more heft and boom behind them. The CD which was released on August 17th on Polyvinyl Records is streaming for free at MBV music. Listen for yourself.
In Turin, Italy U2 debuted two new and official songs: “Glastonbury” and “North Star”; quite possibly both ditties will show up on the band’s forthcoming album. However, were they decent, entertaining, and credible songs? Why exactly did U2 choose to add them to the European set? A theory: “Glastonbury” has so far replaced the formal show opener “Breathe”; “Beautiful Day” has now taken that song’s place. “Glastonbury” certainly attempts to achieve the anthemic quality and appeal that several songs on No Line on the Horizon so tangibly lacked, and Bono makes similar gestures.
U2 has indeed rehearsed “Breathe”, in Denmark just recently. But the hyper-Dylanesque vocal traits of “Breathe” seem to render it basically immaterial live, and Bono’s botched line during the band’s major California concert hasn’t helped its status live, as it was viewed by nearly the entire planet. (Though I thought “Breathe” went over fairly well at the 2009 show I evaluated.) It’s no surprise also that “New Year’s Day” sometimes succeeds “Beautiful Day”—two unmistakable and bona fide anthems right off the bat, with “Glastonbury” a little down the line.
As for “North Star,” its acoustic, folk music vibe interestingly recalls the defunct Oasis, but also the Verve, and especially Richard Ashcroft’s solo work. It’s a rare and acoustic song from the band – aside from the live version of “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”. Moreover, the decision to showcase the Batman Forever song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” couldn’t be a wiser move, with its sexy, infectious techno bit combined with the Edge’s slick guitar virtuosity. It’s better than “Get on Your Boots”, though it shares several items in common with it.