Monday, August 9, 2010

5 Refreshing Songs from the 2000's

I can't be the only one who is either bothered, bored, or aggravated by the state of modern (popular) music. It's either all the same or just annoying. I could easily be convinced that Theory of a Deadman is a Chad Kroeger side-project. I've heard enough Lady Gaga and Katy Perry to last me a lifetime. I'd be the first contestant eliminated on a game show whose goal is to tell two Daughtry songs apart. I'll let YouTube celebrity and FX's "The League" (hilarious show, check it out on hulu) star Jon Lajoie summarize my feelings hilariously with this and this.

Every now and then, I do manage to hear a song that makes me stop for a second and appreciate modern music again. It's a shame that I have to hunt so hard to find music like this, but it's usually worth it when all's said and done. These songs are refreshing because they prove to me that good music is not dead, that there are still people out there making stuff on par with the gems from the 60's, 70's, 80's, or stuff that is surprisingly and pleasingly different. Anywho, here are my five refreshing songs of the 2000's (all of which you can get in MP3 form right here):

1. "Angryman" by The Bees

Why it's refreshing (in one sentence): It's jazzy, it's funky, it's soulful... it's different than anything I've heard in a while.

Elaboration: The Bees (or A Band of Bees in the US) is an English band who defy genre like Lebron defied the hopes of the city of Cleveland. Their 2002 debut album, "Sunshine Hit Me," is a family-reunion-style potluck of music. You get some funky soul in "Angryman," some soft jazzy-rock with "Punchbag," and a loungy piano instrumental in "Zia." Not only have The Bees blended genre like Tom Dickson blends golf balls (Will it blend? That is the question), but they've done it was a modest deal of success. They've been nominated for a Mercury Prize, been featured in British commercials, and opened for Oasis. They've also received praise from Fleet Foxes, having songs posted on their Facebook page (which is how I found out about this band).

2. "1000 Years" by The Coral

Why it's refreshing (in one sentence): Folk rock is not dead!

Elaboration: Another band I recently discovered via the Fleet Foxes' Facebook page, The Coral is a British band who has released 6 studio albums since 2002. Starting with their self-titled debut, they've forged their way to their most recent studio album, "Butterfly House," which is the only one I've listened to thus far, and contains the standout track "1000 Years." I've never read a list of their influences, but based on what I hear, I gathered that they must enjoy The Beach Boys, Neil Young, Fleet Foxes and other stuff in the same vein. The album has received some nice praise from major music publications, including an 8/10-star review from NME.

Something else you might like: "Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal," "Ray Lamontagne - Trouble."

3. "Little Wing" (Live) by John Mayer (originally Jimi Hendrix)

Why it's refreshing (in one sentence): The blues are alive and thriving.

Elaboration: I know, it's not an original (a Hendrix song). Hell, it's not even an official release (It's a bootleg from 2004, but you can go ahead and download the whole show, Mayer's cool with bootlegs). It does, however, remind me that there are still talented musicians out there, and perhaps some of them might not always show it: this is the same guy who wrote "Your Body Is a Wonderland," which Blender magazine ranked as one of the "50 Worst Songs Ever" (then again, he also wrote this beauty a few years later. Just needed a little time to mature). Mayer takes Jimi's 2 minute, 24 second masterpiece and turns it into an 8+ minute homage to Hendrix and his blues guitar. It seems like Johnny-boy is exposing a new generation to the blues: his 2006 album "Continuum" (yes, I link to Wikipedia a lot, and yes, I called him "Johnny-boy"), which owes a lot to blues music, has sold over 3 million copies worldwide, hit #2 on the Billboard 200, and won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album.

4. "I'm Amazed" by My Morning Jacket

Why it's refreshing (in one sentence): It sounds so classic, yet new simultaneously.

Elaboration: Indie king My Morning Jacket have a quality rags-to-riches story: their first album, 1999's "The Tennessee Fire" was recorded on a low budget, in a barn, and it sounds as such, in ways both good and bad. You get the sound of people dropping thing and shuffling around away from the action, but you also get the echoey atmospherics of singer Jim James' soaring vocals bouncing off the high rafters. Fast-forward to 2008, which saw the release of their most recent album "Evil Urges," winner of the Best Alternative Rock Album Grammy award. Their songs now appear on popular television shows, such as One Tree Hill, and the band themselves have cameo'd in "American Dad."

Something else you might like: "Wolfmother - California Queen," "Kings of Leon - Crawl."

5. "Unreachable" by John Frusciante

Why it's refreshing (in one sentence): Long-form (and psychedelic) music is still being made, and being made well.

Elaboration: If you've heard the name "John Frusciante," you know him as the acclaimed guitarist (18th best of all time according to Rolling Stone) for the Red Hot Chili Peppers... well, former RHCP guitarist. What most people won't know is that Froosh has himself an expansive solo career, which includes 8 studio albums since 1994, four of those released in 2004, and one, "The Empyrean," which I believe to be his best, released in 2009. Frusciante clearly took both the psychedelic and long-form routes with this disc: the underwater-sounding guitars and the echoey and otherworldly vibe found in "Unreachable" are unmistakably psych-influenced, and the track clocks in at about 6:10. Not long enough for you? My two other favorite cuts from the record, the big and looming "Central," and "Before the Beginning," a tribute to Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain," run for 7:16 and 9:09, respectively.

(If I counted correctly, there are a whopping 23 YouTube links [counting the embedded videos] crammed into this post... sorry, I got excited. If I counted incorrectly... I'm a journalism major, and math is stupid.)

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