Archive for the ‘perfect songs’ Category

Anticipating Mikal Cronin’s new album (aka Brighten up your Monday with two of the best songs of 2013 so far.)

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Mikal Cronin. Photo courtesy Denee Petracek.

Mikal Cronin. Photo courtesy Denee Petracek.

Mikal Cronin‘s name has been floating around the underground for a few years now as a pop-rock genius, thanks to a handful of singles, his work with garage wunderkind Ty Segall and a fine, fine debut album on one of the planet’s best record labels, Trouble In Mind.

Now, Cronin is ready for his breakthrough. Next week, his second album “MCII” comes out on another one of the planet’s best labels — but one with considerably more promotional muscle — Merge Records.

And it is a stunner.

I remember reading a review of a Guided By Voices album many years ago that said something about how Bob Pollard seems to spit out amazing, beautiful melodies like the rest of us breathe. And after listening to “MCII” a dozen or so times now, I keep coming back to the same feeling about Cronin. If you love absolutely perfect pop-rock powered by the urgent strum of an acoustic guitar and packed with soaring melodies that’ll stick in your brain for a loooong time, you must give this guy a spin. (Seriously, ask my wife what I’ve been singing around the house nonstop for the past couple of weeks. “DO I SHOUT IT OUT? DO I LET IT GO?”)

Anyway, the entire album is now streaming via NPR, but I want to highlight not only the first two singles and the best two tracks, but two of the best songs released by anyone anywhere this year. These tunes are pretty much perfect. Click play, please:

Again, the whole thing is streaming here. You can (and should) order “MCII” via Merge. Also, Mr. Cronin will play Mississippi Studios in Portland on June 6.

Colin Meloy plays “The Crane Wife 1, 2 & 3″ for KEXP

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

This is one of my favorite stretches of music of the past several years. Just beautiful.

Posting this is really just my roundabout way of reminding you that The Decemberists‘ new album “The King is Dead” comes out today, and it is excellent, especially if you love the “5 Songs” / “Castaways and Cutouts”-era of the band (or Tarkio) more than their most recent record, “The Hazards of Love.”

Stream all of “The King is Dead” here or here or here.

My two favorite songs by The Thermals

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Portland’s finest indie-pop-punk trio The Thermals descend upon the Tower Theatre in Bend tonight to provide the venerable downtown venue with what may be its most rocking performance ever. (Read our interview with bassist Kathy Foster here.)

The band’s 2004 album “F–kin A” (sorry, it’s a family blog) is one of my favorite records of the 2000s, though I will admit I’ve been less enamored with each of their past three releases. That said, “Personal Life,” their new one that came out yesterday, sounds to me like their best work in years. Some folks agree, and some don’t.

All that said, I do believe the band’s core duo, Foster and Hutch Harris, created two of the very best songs of the past decade, and I sure hope we hear them tonight! Take a listen …

How about you? Which Thermals song would you like to hear tonight?

The Thermals will perform tonight at the Tower Theatre, 835 N.W. Wall St., Bend, with an opening set by The Autonomics at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15 plus fees, available through the Tower.

R.I.P. Alex Chilton

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

It would take just a quick scan of my CD collection to know that Alex Chilton is a deity in my musical mind. Many of my favorite artists — Brendan Benson, Teenage Fanclub, The New Pornographers, Fountains of Wayne, Wilco and Sloan among them — are direct descendants of the power-pop genius behind The Box Tops and Big Star. (And then there’s this timeless tribute.)

Chilton died yesterday in New Orleans, but he was a native of Memphis, Tenn., one of our country’s most important music cities and a place that has been overburdened with the tragic loss of musicians in the past few months. Chilton’s death, at only 59 years old, is no more or less tragic than any of those others, but in my heart, it hurts more.

Happy Birthday, Sam

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

The man with the greatest singing voice ever, Sam Cooke, would’ve been 79 today.

Superb songs of the decade: Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

(This post is part of Frequency’s coverage of the best music of the past decade. You can see all of that coverage in one place by clicking here. And be sure to tune in Dec. 18, when I’ll post “Near/Far,” our annual, downloadable MP3 compilation of the best music of 2009, to go along with our year-in-review package in that day’s GO! Magazine.)

If you’re one of the “any kind of music but country” types, you may have never heard this song, which for my money is one of the best and saddest of the decade. Not only is it well-written and devastatingly sad, it’s also performed by two folks I’d call the two most accomplished country artists of the past 10 years, if you consider both commercial success and artistic achievement.

Superb songs of the decade: Massive Attack and Mos Def

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

(This post is part of Frequency’s coverage of the best music of the past decade. You can see all of that coverage in one place by clicking here. And be sure to tune in Dec. 18, when I’ll post “Near/Far,” our annual, downloadable MP3 compilation of the best music of 2009, to go along with our year-in-review package in that day’s GO! Magazine.)

This Massive Attack beat absolutely destroys anything in its path. Mighty Mos holds his own on the mic, too. What an effort. I believe this song first appeared on the soundtrack of “Blade II,” some vampire movie from 2002 starring Wesley Snipes. The Internet tells me that movie is nearly 120 minutes long.

I am pretty sure I’d rather listen to this song 23 times in a row than watch “Blade II.”

Superb songs of the decade: Robbie Fulks

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

(This post is part of Frequency’s coverage of the best music of the past decade. You can see all of that coverage in one place by clicking here. And be sure to tune in Dec. 18, when I’ll post “Near/Far,” our annual, downloadable MP3 compilation of the best music of 2009, to go along with our year-in-review package in that day’s GO! Magazine.)

“Where There’s A Road,” the best song from Chicago-based singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks‘ excellent “Georgia Hard” album, synthesizes sound and lyric as well as any song I know. Fulks augments his tale of restless wandering and highway horizons with banjos that roll like wheels and a chorus that soars just as the protagonist’s motor roars. Get this: Fulks wrote a song about busting out and seeing the world and, at the same time, a song that sounds like busting out and seeing the world. There is a reason the man has one of the most impressive catalogs of the past 15 years.

Superb songs of the decade: Bedouin Soundclash

Monday, December 7th, 2009

(This post is part of Frequency’s coverage of the best music of the past decade. You can see all of that coverage in one place by clicking here. And be sure to tune in Dec. 18, when I’ll post “Near/Far,” our annual, downloadable MP3 compilation of the best music of 2009, to go along with our year-in-review package in that day’s GO! Magazine.)

I’m not terribly familiar with the music of Bedouin Soundclash, who opened for Ben Harper at Les Schwab Amphitheater in 2006. Not sure if that’s because their other songs have never made much of an impression, or because every time I hear this tune — “Walls Fall Down,” from the 2007 album “Street Gospels” — I’m transported to a bouncy, reggae-fied happy place and I forget everything that ever happened to me before that moment.

Perfect Songs: The Weakerthans, “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute”

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

On July 30, the country duo Sugarland kicks off the summer concert season at Les Schwab Amphitheater. I wasn’t able to get an interview with either of the members, so instead, my story in Friday’s GO! Magazine will focus on the band’s song “Stay,” and why I think it’s a great tune and deserving of the Grammy it earned songwriter Jennifer Nettles a few months back.

But as I listened to the song over and over, it made me think about some of the other top-notch songs that live in my iTunes. “Stay” is a great song, but it’s not perfect. Perfect songs are hard to come by. Penning wonderful, poetic lyrics, then putting them to a memorable melody and catchy chord progression, and then performing it all at a high level is not as easy as it seems, I guess. (It doesn’t seem easy.)

But some can pull it off. John K. Samson, for example. In 2003, his band The Weakerthans released an album called “Reconstruction Site” that was packed with hooky folk/pop/punk rock laced with plenty of Canadian charm and Samson’s clever storytelling. The album is solid from top to bottom, but the fifth track, “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute,” is not only the high point, but one of the best songs I’ve heard. (And yes, it’s really “Virtute.” Not “Virtue.”)

Sung from the perspective of a cat that’s trying to shake its depressed owner from the doldrums, “Plea” is pure poetry. There are so many great lines in this tune, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. How about a top three?

-”I don’t know who you’re talking to. I made a search through every room, but all I found was dust that moved in shadows of the afternoon.”

-”We’ll pass around the easy lie of absolutely no regrets, and later maybe you could try to let your losses dangle off the sharp edge of the century and talk about the weather, or how the weather used to be.”

-”I swear I’m going to bite you hard and taste your tinny blood if you don’t stop the self-defeating lies you’ve been repeating since the day you brought me home. I know you’re strong.

This song is absolutely heartbreaking, whether it’s a cat’s imagined monologue or a metaphor for human relationships. When the cat offers to throw a party and cater with all the birds it can kill? Crushing.

Never mind that the song is an insanely catchy chunk of pop-rock. Listen for yourself (but ignore the visual):

Holy smokes, right? What a song, and a nice message: No matter how crappy life seems sometimes, you are strong and you can live through it. Thanks, cat! And Thanks John K. Samson, for writing a perfect song.