Saturday, December 24, 2011

Review: Fountains Of Wayne - Sky Full Of Holes

This is a power pop blog. Did you really think I could not review the latest Fountains of Wayne album? Its inevitable, just like death, taxes and Beatles re-releases.

Luckily, for us, Sky Full Of Holes is inevitably good.

If you have heard any of the previous FoW albums, nothing here should surprise you. For all of the talk of "new found" maturity and "serious subject matter" you could read about in the mainstream music press, FoW fans will see more continuity than change. This is fine with me as Collingwood and Schlesinger are about as consistent a pair of tunesmiths as are working today.

OK, to say the album is good is no great surprise either. The question is how good is it? For my money, pretty damn good. I would certainly rate it higher than their previous effort Traffic & Weather. In fact, there are a couple of songs here (namely "A Dip in the Ocean" and "Acela") that come off as "improved" versions of tracks off that earlier effort. It is almost as if they weren't quite satisfied with what they had done, and they wanted to nail it this time.

Mission accomplished.

There is probably a solid half dozen songs here that can rank with the best of their career output. "Action Hero" and "Hate to See you Like This" cranks up the pathos to eleven, but work beautifully. "Richie and Reuben" and "A Road Song" display their customary wit, with the latter's reference to Steve Perry generating a guffaw from your truly. "Cemetery Guns" continues FoW's run of interesting and lovely album enders.

My advice is to enjoy the hell out of this.

Grade: B+/A-

Friday, December 23, 2011

Review: Buffalo Tom - Skins

It's funny what one song can do. I'll admit, Buffalo Tom was completely new to me when I got a compilation disc from a buddy that contained a perfect little pop song entitled "She's Not Your Thing."

After listening to the song twice in a row I said aloud (to myself), "OK I need more of that."

"What was that?" asked my wife.

"Oh, nothing," I replied, ashamed my inner dialogue had leaked out... again.

In any event, it happily turns out I really did need more Buffalo Tom. Skins is a fine pop/rock album. It may not have been exactly what I was expecting based upon the tight Teenage Fanclub-esque "Thing" but the album delivers a boat load of memorable of slightly rootsy rock numbers which often evoke a Toad The Wet Sprocket quality.

"Arise, Watch" probably exemplifies the Toad qualities most explicitly. though the pretty "Don't Forget Me" and straight forward (and classy) "Here I Come" hail from the same zip code.

"Lost Weekend" is a great little rocker in a Blue Rodeo vein, while "Paper Knife" is a nice slice (see what I did there?) of John Hiatt style balladry. "The Kids Just Sleep" pops out late to give "She's Not Your Thing" a run for its money in the competition for best song on the album.

This is a solid album.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Love Me Do"

My Beatles criticism project continued:

The song begins with a healthy dose of John's harmonica, with studio session man Andy White's drums and Ringo's tambourine playing the next most obvious presence. Paul's bass is right there but he isn't doing much to make it distinctive.

"Love Me Do" is simplicity itself. The song contains four verses, one bridge and they fit in an harmonica solo as well. Paul handles the solo vocals, but there is a heavy backing vocal to help fill out the sound. It is a mid-tempo shuffle that doesn't have a strong "rock and roll" feel to it. In many ways the song feels like the last stand of the Quarrymen, the skiffle group that grew into the Beatles.

The lyrics couldn't be simpler. "Love, love me do. You know I love you. I'll always be true. So please, love me do." That covers all of the lyrics for all four verses. The bridge adds "Someone to love, somebody new. Someone to love, someone like you." The chord progression also follows a simple G & C chord structure, with a D chord being thrown in on the bridge. Hardly the stuff of virtuoso performances.

Yet, somehow, the song manages to add to more than the sum of its parts. The group vocals are particularly strong. The harmony used on the elongated "please" in the verses is quite gorgeous. They also layer the vocal effectively. When Paul's voice alone sings "Love me do" it contrasts nicely with the fuller vocal sound on the rest of the record. The harmonica also provides a sort of commentary throughout the song. It adds musical interest to a song that might otherwise have gotten monotonous.

Genre Hell: Americana

Here is a definition of the music style known as Americana pulled from a Wikipedia article: Americana, as defined by the Americana Music ...