Category Archives: Music

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS – The Raconteurs

Eleven years. Eleven years of waiting. I know you’re a busy guy, Jack White, but I (and thousands of others) have waited so long. And then like the sun bursting through an endless grey sky – you and Benson and Lawrence and Keeler have delivered. And just like the first two The Raconteurs albums – it’s fucking awesome.

Help Us Stranger is the junior album from The Raconteurs and hot off the June press this year. And while I genuinely love every song on it (I’m obsessed with this band, truly), I decided on doing a little write up on “Thoughts and Prayers” – a title that carries some irony as a modern throwaway phrase as Jack White put.

Starting off with a very quiet and short piano bit that is then answered by a guitar, “Thoughts and Prayers” is one of the slower tracks on the album but carries more weight than most. Guitars continue to echo, creating a layering effect that is both eerie and calming. A deep synthesized bass joins in shortly, putting a solid base against the moving strings.

The lyrics then branch into some thoughts on the grim reaper without time, a sunless sun, a sleepless man who doesn’t own a clock, and the absence of friends. The first three verses finish with a useless prayer of hoping for another way to feel OK – but no action to resolve it.

A brief interlude of the melody with a new introduction of a screeching, down spiral of a mandolin and violin (via the Richie Sisters) follows as the next verses play out. Again we reach into someone’s thoughts on how people live, how to grow money, and writing letters. The latter referencing Sullivan Ballou who used to pen eloquent letters to his wife, one being only two weeks before the battle of Bull Run in 1861 – in which he was killed. In 1862, his wife would have received the letter and been in mourning (a good reason to be blue).

The lyrics then seem to get a little more desperate, being our protagonist thinks himself a cast away, led astray, and very much alone. Is there even any worth in making it to the end if you are the only one left?

Then the song dips into a very frantic and wild build with the mandolin and violin taking front and center. The trills and runs are building force pushing the song to its end.

The last verse is loud and present, reminiscing in a sense of what was and the gray that now is. Again, a prayer is said for a better way – asking God (notably a her) for assurance that there are reasons why it is this way. The song ends quietly on those last words, dropping to nothing.

So many meanings can be pulled from this one. For me there are two. The first is an apocalyptic scenario where the protagonist is the only surviving person on Earth. Everything (and everybody) has been destroyed by some unknown force and he is trying to find a positive outlook on this grim world that he must get through alone.

The second is the tinging of a person’s outlook on life, perhaps after a catastrophic and senseless event. They are counting the sad things in life, wallowing in the gray. They see the future as bleak and even death doesn’t seem to matter. It seems impossible to get back to even a sliver of happiness. Thoughts and prayers are just as useless, and they don’t change anything.

No matter how this song speaks to you, I hope you enjoy it just as much as I do. Please take a listen of this charged tune via whatever your music provider may be. Don’t forget to check out the full lyrics below.
Enjoy!
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“Thoughts and Prayers” by The Raconteurs

How can the grim reaper creep
If he really doesn’t have the time?
And how long would you sleep
If the sun decided not to shine?

There’s a man who lives up the block
He doesn’t even own a clock
Sometimes he stays awake for days
He’s doing it his own way

I used to give my friends a call
Now there’s no one left at all
I think my father used to say
There’s got to be a different way
To make myself feel OK
Or maybe that’s just how he used to pray

And who cares how people live
If living’s all they got?
And who knows how money grows?
Drop a nickel in the pot

I wrote a letter down to you
Like I’m Sullivan Ballou
It’s a recipe for blue
Like it’s 1862

Maybe I’m just a cast away
Or a poor boy led astray
There’s no one left here to betray
The only child of the earth
Nobody left here to give birth
It’s hard to tell what that’s worth

I used to look up at the sky
Up at the beautiful blue sky
But now the earth has turned to gray
There’s got to be a better way
To talk to God and hear her say
There are reasons why it is this way

SUPERPOSITION – Young the Giant

After being on a 90s binge for over two months, I heard this song on the radio and finally snapped back into the 2010s – kind of. While the song “Superposition” by Young the Giant was released back in August 2018, somehow I had missed this one until March of 2019. It’s the first song on the indie rock quartet’s fourth album, Mirror Master.

So what brought me into the depths of this one? Well – as it is a running theme with me – I loved the feeling it gave me. It started with the syncopation of the snare and then washed over once the ukulele and the deep drags of a synthesized bass joined in. Such polar opposites but it works so well. To describe the feeling, it reminds me of early mornings driving and how sun light starts to flicker across things as you move. But the light is almost horizontal in motion, casting a shadow on the things in front of it but giving ridiculous illumination to everything else. Your driving on a day that you were so excited for yet your whole body is in complete relaxation anticipating it – even if the journey started at five am. Do you what know what I’m talking about?

Well, even if you don’t, I still think you’ll like this song. Let’s dig a little deeper. Sameer starts us off in between Cannata’s picks with “I don’t believe in fate / no physic vision / but when things fall into place / superposition.” So what is superposition? Google Dictionary describes it as “the action of placing one thing on or above another, especially so that they coincide.” In other words, it’s a natural event cause by direct forces which add to one another.

The next line “In any universe / you are my dark star,” introduces another fun scientific term. A dark star is defined by Google as “a starlike object which emits little or no visible light. Its existence is inferred from other evidence, such as the eclipsing of other stars.” Interesting – so kind of like something that can’t be seen until it placed over something else. Like it has to be superposed? Very nice, Young the Giant. Very nice.

Beyond the precise defining of words, there is more to the verses. I feel like the lyrics chosen in this first verse are describing falling in love, but not in a fate sort of way. The universe itself has brought two people together and when they are together, they are a betterment of themselves. Destiny is cast aside; its just how the world works.

Sameer continues a desire for the other to want him back like he wants them, asking to rely on chemistry to create that initial attraction. And if anything keeps them apart, they should  push the obstacles out of the way.

Then the song releases – or at least that’s how it sounds and feels. The la-di-da’s chase the ukulele and we are brought into the another verse, where again the argument of precision and science is made over naive beliefs.

The only significant change in the song’s even pace is when everything drops out aside from the bass drum and a few keyboard clicks with Sameer’s voice saying “No matter what we do / I’ll be there with YOU.” There is a shrill emphasis on the “you” as the bass comes in with a little groove that lasts only a moment as it then settles back into the easy wave.

The lyrics on this one just have so much space and science play to them – so many meanings could be pulled but this is my take from it. Overall, a great song all together that always leaves me feeling happy and relaxed.

Please take a listen of this fantastic tune here and don’t forget to check out the full lyrics below. Perhaps while you watch their music video, you can also ponder whether superposition principles were used to produce it : )

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“Superpostion” by Young the Giant

I don’t believe in fate
No psychic vision
But when things fall into place,
superposition
In any universe
you are my dark star

I want you to want me
Why don’t we rely on chemistry?
Why don’t we collide the spaces that divide us?
I want you to want me

Superstition aims with imprecision
But when things can’t be explained,
superposition, oh
In any universe
you are my dark star

I want you to want me
Why don’t we rely on chemistry?
Why don’t we collide the spaces that divide us?
I want you to want me
I want you to want me

No matter what we do
I’ll be there with you!

I want you to want me
Why don’t we rely on chemistry?
Why don’t we collide the spaces that divide us?
I want you to want me

Fast Talk – Houses

Dexter Tortoriello (aka Golden Dawn) has put out a very easy but sobering single with Megan Messina called “Fast Talk” off of Houses latest EP, Drugstore Heaven. This song was an instant like for me, before even hearing any of the lyrics. The bouncy clicks on the keys and the delayed chords give off this cloudy, relaxed, and nostalgic feel that is too much to pass on.

So it was no surprise when the first lyrics (Me and my best friends / cruising down west end street) come in, that they too relate this emotion.

But let’s move a little further into the lyrics. The next thing we find out is cruising was part of Dexter and his friends way of hiding from the cops and, in the end, it ended up with all of his friends dead. For “…we’re born to die young / But we’re just trying to live in peace.

A heavy snare hit brings us to the chorus where those chords step down a few octaves and the music feels a bit more driven. And that emphasis is needed for the chorus’s stinging words: So maybe heaven is a ghetto with no bad blocks / Shangri-La dealers at the bus stops / And maybe god is just a cop with we can fast talk / So if you’re guilty and you know it, put your hands up / ‘Cause karma’s just a different word for bad luck / And what if death is just another pair of handcuffs / Then we’d better run.

And then things got heavy. So many things can be construed from those words. I can in no way say I can relate to this situation in a non-metaphorical way, but what I take away from it is a couple of sad truths.

The first is a reality where being arrested is ultimately a death sentence. Going to jail is more terrifying than trying to run for it. That slim chance of being able to escape is worth more of one’s life than working through the sentence.

The second is that aging out of this situation gives one a heaven, a Shangri-La, and a god. But each of those things are still tainted. So in return of living through all of the craziness in youth, the life given is once of mediocrity. An uneven fulfillment that could easily leave a person with depression and melancholy.

Dexter has given this explanation for the song: “…meant to be a memorial for a group of friends I had back in my late teens. Thematically it’s almost like a ballet where you keep driving around the same blocks, and people start disappearing from the car because they’re going to jail or dying.”

The next verse and bridge on gives more to the theme, but again no positive notes. Instead we’re left with thoughts of drugged out nights and a hope for a better life. One that doesn’t involve dying young like everyone says.

Please take a listen of this fantastic tune here and don’t forget to check out the full lyrics below.

Enjoy!
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“Fast Talk” by Houses

Me and my best friends
cruising down West End street
Hiding from cops
and driving circles around the block
all week.
All of my friends died
out on West End street.
They say we’re born to die young
but we’re just trying to live in peace.

So maybe heaven is a ghetto with no bad blocks
Shangri-La dealers at the bus stops
And maybe god is just a cop with we can fast talk
So if you’re guilty and you know it, put your hands up
‘Cause karma’s just a different word for bad luck
And what if death is just another pair of handcuffs
Then we’d better run (x2)

All of our friends went crazy on LSD
Sailing their cars through the big bright city streets
And everyone who knows our name
Says that we ain’t ever gonna change
They say we’re born to die young
But we’re trying to find a better way
They say we’re born to die young
But we’re trying to find a better way

So maybe heaven is a ghetto with no bad blocks
Shangri-La dealers at the bus stops
And maybe god is just a cop with we can fast talk
So if you’re guilty and you know it, put your hands up
‘Cause karma’s just a different word for bad luck
And what if death is just another pair of handcuffs
Then we’d better run (x2)

Phone call: Word up?
Hey, what’s up, man?
Just sitting around and I’m gonna be 32 years old tomorrow.
And I feel half completely alive
And half completely dead.

We hope and we pray day after day
They say we’re born to die young
But we’re trying to find a better way
We hope and we pray day after day
They say we’re born to die young
But we’re trying to find a better way

So maybe heaven is a ghetto with no bad blocks
Shangri-La dealers at the bus stops
And maybe god is just a cop with we can fast talk
So if you’re guilty and you know it, put your hands up
‘Cause karma’s just a different word for bad luck
And what if death is just another pair of handcuffs
Then we’d better run (x3)

WAIT BY THE RIVER (Lord Huron)

So, I know, I have already done a Lord Huron song. What gives? Well, Lord Huron sent me their new album Vide Noir after I ordered some tickets for their upcoming show in October (which I am ecstatic about). And, you see, I kind of fell in love with that album instantaneously. So, yeah, I’m going to talk about another Lord Huron song and today’s feature is “Wait by the River.”

I was obsessed with this track for a solid month. It all begins the bass and that single snare. For a moment, the song transports me back to the 1950s as the keys are chased on a piano as if to open a curtain. And what comes to my mind immediately (and quite ironically once I saw the music video for this), were the old variety shows that would showcase different musical acts. The syncopation of the piano pickups and then Ben Schneider starts in.

Love – what else would this song focus on? Of course, this one is a broken love that our antagonist is hoping to mend. And he will wait forever for it; if that’s what it takes. The first verse builds nicely with Schneider’s voice, dropping us off at the end with a release of sound.

In the second, a stiff rhythm guitar is added as the antagonist begs for his love again, though he pushes more on the fact that he can’t wait forever. This verse is ended again with a crescendo, but instead of quick release, echoes are added in that extend the ending giving it a dreamlike quality. Which is fitting considering the Emerald Star theme for this album.

The next word I wait so patiently for to sing along with – “Baby!” The way Schneider says is just too much fun, followed soon by “I don’t honestly wish you were dead.” (That line had me dying with laughter the first time, especially after hearing that Baby.) It’s clear now that the antagonist has had a bad fight with his love and he is backpedaling trying to recall the things he said. But he is still waiting by that damn river.

The song begins to build again as everything grows towards the ending. Schneider starts in with those wonderful nature inspired lyrics that he is so amazing at, describing how a river can begin to look like it runs into the stars with the help of moonlight. The antagonist is at his end knowing that he cannot continue through life without his other. So much so, that he would rather give up his life than continue on. Thus, is the Vide Noir.

Then the track deflates with that ethereal echo we heard before, and the piano draws back the curtain.

Please take a listen of this fantastic tune here and don’t forget to check out the full lyrics below. I also highly recommend listening to the full Vide Noir album while you are at it.

Enjoy!
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“Wait by the River” by Lord Huron

I will wait by the river
In the light of the moon
At the edge of the city
I will wait for you

Though I can’t wait forever
Someday I’ll be dead and gone
And I won’t be forgiven
For what I’ve done

I will wait by the river
I will wait by the river
I will wait by the river
I will wait by the river

I will cry out to heaven
As it rains down on me
I will beg for forgiveness
Get down on my knees

If I can’t change the weather
Maybe I can change your mind
If we can’t be together
What’s the point of life

Baby, I didn’t mean the things I said
I don’t honestly wish you were dead
I’m a fool; I’m just a man
If I only could hold you again

And the stars fill the river
As it flows into the sky
And the mind leaves the body
And floats higher and higher

If we can’t be together
I will leave this world behind
If I can’t touch your body
Can I touch the sky?

I will wait by the river
I will wait by the river
I will wait by the river
I will wait by the river

IRON AND WINE – Communion Cups and Someone’s Coat

So, I know it has been a while – both for me and a music review. But, you know, life happens. And lately, life has been crazy. New, old, unstable, unrelenting, busy life. I’ve been more stressed in the past few months than I have for the entire year.

And so, with all that anxiety in worrying about the past and future, I decided to pick a song that, I believe, is all about focusing on now.  “Communion Cups and Someone’s Coat” from Around the Well, is one of my favorites from Iron and Wine. Sam Beam is the man behind the name and has one of the most calming voices I have ever heard. One that I, frankly, cannot get enough of.

The acoustics in this song are simple and beautiful, repeating this flowing melody with sharper upper tones and a ghostly echo. Like so many Iron and Wine songs, there is an earthiness to the sound and an easiness that is both relaxing and familiar. There are no drums, no bass, and nothing fancy – just Sam’s voice, the guitar, and a woman’s voice backing vocals to enhance the wonder.

Sam starts in with the first set of verses and answers:

Talk of yesterday and she will show her
brothers photographed in calloused clothes.
Say tomorrow and she’ll say come find me,
on a beach and there will be no moon.

But say
today
and she will
kiss your face
and maybe
forgive.

Looking at this, many meanings can come forward from the lyrics dependent on a person’s history and life experiences. For me, right now, it is about today. The woman Sam talks about goes off on a sad nostalgia (photographed, calloused clothes) when asked about the past and when it comes to the future, it is dark and unknown (no moon). However, when you ask about the present and what is happening now, she is delighted.

The second verse continues this:

Talk of yesterday like bargain shoestring,
she will kick the car and find her friends.
Say tomorrow and then she’ll describe some
old communion cups and someone’s coat.

But say
today
and she may
look your way
and lead you
home.

When the past is mentioned, the woman is angered and begins to look for her friends.  To me that is a reaction to find comfort now in the people that surround you. When the tomorrow comes about, she diverges and reminisces on details that are not important in life. As if to say, why focus on things to come and not enjoy right now? I love how when today is the topic, she pays attention to the speaker and leads them home. She is so delighted to be in the moment with another person that she will share her home.

This song is a reminder to me to stop worrying about what happened yesterday, quit analyzing the probabilities of my futures, and just enjoy the now. Be present in the moment and live life.

Please take a listen to the song here .  I encourage you to then keep exploring Iron and Wine and bathe in Sam’s heart-wrenching sound.

I CAN’T GO ON WITHOUT YOU – Kaleo

Kaleo is a young Icelandic band who released their first album, A/B, last year. This blues/rock album is filled with beautifully executed tunes, stressing the smooth weight of lead singer JJ Juliusson’s voice and the charismatic playing of lead guitarist Rubin Pollock. (Not to downplay Daniel (Bass) or David (Percussion), who are also both amazing musicians!) The soul that this band brings into their music is fantastic. I feel like they have poured their hearts into the album, charging each song emotionally and building a collection that is wonderful to listen through.

That is one of the many reasons it was so hard to pick just one song to write about. But I feel like “I Can’t Go On Without You” is a good representation of what Kaleo is and has to offer.

“I Can’t Go On Without You” starts quietly – a few strums on the guitar followed by an eerie whistle. Long, high-pitched tones begin to whale from the lead to accompany the sound, emphasizing a feeling of anticipation. Then JJ begins telling us a story – a man and woman who thought they were in love.

Within the first verse we learn that the woman has fell out of that love. Nobody wants that. And though he tries, he cannot go on living his life without her. JJ’s stress on the “can’t” is very powerful, cracking at the top as if he truly means it.

It’s here that we introduce another element to the building song – the guitar hitting low-echoed tones that almost remind me of the way that music sounds under water. The sound is deep, often putting chills down my spine. Coupled with JJ’s aching voice makes it that much more awesome.

As the song continues, the lyrics appear to reveal that the woman was involved in an affair, hinted by the shame he feels when he thinks of her. They break up, but he continues to think about her, so many “thoughts that cross [his] mind.” He is still in love with her, even though she has left him a “broken man.” His life has been left in pieces as he struggles to live without her.

The music grows with this emotion, gradually getting more chaotic and powerful, with a few quiet, reflective moments in between. Each time JJ comes back stronger and louder in the chorus, pushing the words across the sound. Strings join in on the pain and the lead guitar takes off a few times, grasping the desperate, wasted feeling of the song.

I had the amazing opportunity to see this band towards the end of last year. I was twenty feet from the stage and this was the first song they chose to play. I remember closing my eyes and just listening – and it was one of my favorite concert experiences to date. If these guys come by – don’t miss them. You will regret it.

Please take a listen and check out the official music video here. Don’t forget to check out the full lyrics below.

Enjoy!

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“I Can’t Go On Without You” by Kaleo

Well they thought they were made for each other
One thinking of one another
Never thinking just for one second
She would take a different attraction

We don’t want that
We don’t want that
We don’t want that
Oh no
[x2]

I can’t go on without you
I can’t go on without you
Can’t go on without you, yeah
I can’t go on without you

Oh so, what’s the point in breaking my sweet heart?
She wanted me to let down my guard
Well, you know what they say, it’s better that way
So, so you better hush and walk away

We don’t want that
We don’t want that
We don’t want that
Oh no
[x2]

I can’t go on without you
I can’t go on without you, oh lord
Can’t go on without you, ooh ooh
I can’t go on, won’t go on, living on, without you

Where was I supposed to wait for you sweetheart?
And hide away the shame
Yes I keep it all inside, all the thought that cross my mind
I do all the things I regret and we don’t want that

We don’t want that
We don’t want that
We don’t want that
Oh no
[x2]

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go on without you
I can’t go on without you, oh lord
Go on without you, ooh ooh
I can’t go on without you babe
Yeah

Ahh, she loves me
She loves me not
She loves me
My love’s gon’ love me

Oh so what is left but a broken man?
Cause nothing hurts like a woman can

I can’t go on without you
I can’t go on without you, oh yeah
Can’t go on without you
I can’t go on without you, oh
Oh without you lord, without you
Without you babe
Oh lord
You

ENDS OF THE EARTH – Lord Huron

Led by Ben Schneider, Lord Huron is an Indie-folk band out of Los Angeles with a smooth, rolling sound. “Lonesome Dreams” was their freshman album released in 2012, largely composed of songs Schneider himself wrote while surrounded with the beauty of the Michigan area around Lake Huron.

Ends of the Earth is the first track starting with a gentle rhythm guitar and subtle humming harmony. The initial sound itself puts me in the mind of a western, perhaps the start of a day rising to the morning sun. Schneider then starts in describing rivers un-traced, mountains un-climbed, and land untouched by time. And that is where Lord Huron began to steal my heart.

This song is filled with imagery of the world left to be discovered and found. “To the ends of the earth would you follow me/There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see.” He goes on to ask, a lover perhaps, if she would follow him. If she said no, then it was time for them to say their goodbyes and he to go on wandering alone.

The steady pace of this song seems to fits perfectly with the theme. The percussion is gated to a point that reminds me of a gallop with a nice echo that resounds in endless space. At other points the violin mimics trills that gives way to a fluttering, light feeling. Birds dancing in the sky? Or just the excited emotion for an unknown adventure? There are several layers in the song to be explored on their own – so much that I think the live experience would be amazing.

One of my favorite lines from Ends of the Earth is “What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given/ If all you do is stand in one place.” As an avid hiker, wanna-be explorer, and someone that rarely says no to something unfamiliar and new, I love that lyric. Experience has always mattered more to me than the material side of things. I couldn’t imagine always staying put, doing the same job, and living the way as everyone before me. Don’t misunderstand me – for some people that is their dream – but for me, “there’s a world that calls…” and I’m always trying to “head() out into the unknown.”

Please take a listen and check out the neat-o animated music video here. Don’t forget to check out the full lyrics below.

Enjoy!

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“Ends of the Earth” by Lord Huron

Oh, there’s a river that winds on forever
I’m gonna see where it leads
Oh, there’s a mountain that no man has mounted
I’m gonna stand on the peak

Out there’s a land that time don’t command
Wanna be the first to arrive
No time for ponderin’ why I’m-a wanderin’
Not while we’re both still alive

To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see
To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
If you won’t, I must say my goodbyes to thee

Oh, there’s an island where all things are silent
I’m gonna whistle a tune
Oh, there’s a desert that size can’t be measured
I’m gonna count all the dunes

Out there’s a world that calls for me, girl
Headin’ out into the unknown
Well if there are strangers, and all kinds of danger
Please don’t say I’m going alone

To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see
To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
Well if you want, I will say my goodbyes to thee

I was a-ready to die for you, baby
Doesn’t mean I’m ready to stay
What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given
If all you do is stand in one place

I’m on a river that winds on forever
Follow ’til I get where I’m goin’
Maybe I’m headin’ to die but I’m still gonna try
I guess I’m goin’ alone