iTunes Reviews

A couple weeks ago I asked people to send me the name of a song they thought I should hear, and I took the first ten and got them off of iTunes. After a few listens I have written my thoughts on each tune.

Allison Moorer - Melancholy Polly

I thought the guitars on this song were killer. The vocal sounded kind of bored, though. Still, I liked the song, it rocked more than I thought it would.

Casting Crowns - Stained Glass Masquerade

I'll admit it: I expected to not like this song. We played something with these guys a year or so ago, and I wasn't into it. Their first big hit, something about "if we are the body..." actually kind of offended me. It seemed to me to be all about how Christians don't do anything Jesus commanded them to do, especially regarding the poor and loving each other. Having just got back from spending a month in India, I was very excited about how the Body was serving each other and loving their God.

That aside, this song was actually pretty good. I thought the lyrics were very honest and humble. I didn't care for the guy's voice, but a girl came in and sang the second verse and she sounded great. Does she sing more of their stuff? Really a nice voice. They both sound like country singers, so if that's your thing...

Iron & Wine - Freedom Hangs Like Heaven

This was another surprise. I always thought this band was a lot more slow and mellow. This tune had a great groove, and really had a cool motion to it. Something that always grabs my ear. They worked lots of blue-grass elements in, slide dobro and banjo, but in a total indie/emo way. Really cool, and great melodies.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over the Rainbow

The first truly great voice in these songs. Holy cow, this guy can sing. Just him and a ukulele, reinterpreting this old showtune. I love how you can hear his breathing when he's not singing, and the reconstruction of the melody was beautiful. Highly re-recommended. I'd love to know where this guy is from. It takes me both to Hawaii and Africa...

Nickel Creek - Doubting Thomas

I've always enjoyed this group, but often their playing has kind of covered up for somewhat average songwriting. This song is great. I love the vibe they create with just a few instruments, and when you know what they can do on their instruments, their restraint is all the more beautiful. Really some bittersweet melodies. You can tell they've been hanging out with Glen Phillips, especially on the bridge. And that's a good thing. I'm going to check out this new record, if more of the songs are of this caliber, I'll be a fan.

Pilotdrift - Bubblecraft

I'm definitely going to check out this band. It starts out with a very Radiohead vibe, which is nice, but has been done, obviously, by the masters themselves. The rhythmic drum stuff that comes in about a minute in, though, is really unique and very, very cool. Then the song sort of shifts into this bizarre "Love Boat"/classical/synthesizer thing. My first thought when that started happening was "Mark Lockett needs to hear this, and now". A total trip, with great use of the studio as an instrument. You've just got to hear it to understand. I really liked this. Probably my favorite of them all.

Mae - Suspension

This is a really strong power-pop song. The guitar parts are great, so are the background vocals. Kind of in that Switchfoot/Jimmy Eat World radio-stuff vein. The singer sounds a lot like Cliff to me, that is, if Cliff sang rock songs. Listen for it, you'll hear it, though. I'm going to talk to him about learning to yell like this guy does in the bridge. That would be rad.

Jamie Cullum - High & Dry (US Version)

Speaking of Radiohead, this is a cover of one of their greatest songs, off of "The Bends" one of my favorite records ever. It's a full-on jazz piano version. The song really stands up with this arrangement. A testament to Thom Yorke. Cullum really delivers vocally, bringing a new and unique delivery to the lyric. The drum and piano work is really tasty. I enjoyed this. The piano solo is just totally icing on the cake.

To me, a good cover pays homage to the original by not doing it the same way. A note for note version always seems lame to me. Why hear somebody else do exactly what you already have in your iPod? This arrangement really honors the fact that it's a great song by changing around the structure, adding a great jazz hook in the turnarounds, and letting the performers be themselves in the tune. This was a great example of the right way to cover a great song.

The Features - Blow It Out

I heard this on the radio a couple weeks ago, and loved it, but had no idea who it was. The singer rocks. Just sounds totally into it. I bet this would be great in concert. Straight up rock song, like a Stones tune. I liked the line "I'm probably found between a pair of huge speakers pushed by vacuum tubes." He rhymes
"huge" and "tubes" and makes it totally sing-along-able. Clever.

Hem - Pacific Street

Beautiful. This girl's voice is absolutely enchanting, and the lyric is hypnotically poetic. A very simple piano/vocal/strings/oboe? arrangement. Without sounding like them, this leaves me with the same feeling a Sixpence record does. And that is a very good thing. The second verse lyric is amazing. "I don't know you except for the way a traveler knows a traveler..." This was my other favorite, and I'm going to look into them as well.

Thanks to everybody who sent me songs. I really enjoyed getting exposed to some new music. I'll have to repeat this a couple times a year. I was honestly surprised by how good most of this stuff was. Pilotdrift and Hem were the standouts to me, but really, every song had something about it that I really enjoyed. It's just amazing to know there is so much good music going on that we can't even be aware of it all. Thanks for your patience with me finding time to digest all of the songs to be able to write about them.