A month ago, I blogged about new music in the rock and roll/pop genre. My conclusion then, and for years before, was that there wasn’t much being done these days that was equivalent to what was happening from the mid- to late-1950s and into the early ’70s.
After a month of getting input, and paying more attention to what’s going on currently, I will stand by that statement — mostly. Still, there is some interesting stuff being done these days.
The initial response to that blog came from a couple Alert Readers (again, hoping that Dave Barry hasn’t licensed that term). Bill Krueger — who of course should be alert, because we share ancestors — made the entirely practical suggestion of borrowing CDs from the public library. Unfortunately, I might use that gambit to stock up on The Music, rather than looking for new music.
Alert Reader Shane Gardner went the extra mile by suggesting some new(er) acts, plus sending me links to YouTube videos of suggested artists. One of those, Leon Bridges, does a fine and faithful update on 1960s R&B and soul. Mutemath isn’t totally new — the video he linked to was from 2011 — but it’s an interesting blend of 1980s synth-pop and more modern rock.
Cage the Elephant (Shane notes that the late Tom Petty liked them, which is a pretty good endorsement) is lyrically interesting, but the instrumentation again seems to be more synthesized. Did the raw guitar-bass-drums thing die with Punk?
Ben Howard seems to be more of a callback to that sort of minimalism, but sounds thinner. Fleet Foxes has less punch than Howard, and on first listen I couldn’t figure out where the lyric was going.
Since that blog post, I’ve spent more time on Sirius XM’s Spectrum, particularly listening online, where I can actually figure out who the artist and song name are; again, my vehicular sat rad is old school. On an extended drive, though, I did hear Spectrum DJ Demos’ “Short List” — the five songs you must hear this week.
One song that I hear regularly on that channel is Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s “If We Were Vampires.” It’s a good vocal, and a great lyric, backed with a simple, serviceable, strictly-acoustic package.
Watching that video led me to watch and listen to some of his other stuff, and view some Bio items about him. He’s a great songwriter, and a significant talent. Not sure if he qualifies as “rock” or “pop,” but good songs are good songs.
Dave Matthews Band’s “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)” also caught my attention. I know of some rock music fans who just blow off DMB, which I mostly don’t get — never understood the animus, nor do I comprehend those who think they’re all that great.
But I also didn’t know they were doing new stuff. I find no correlation between the main song title and the lyric, but still found the lyric/music package moving.
Vance Joy gets airplay on the Spectrum, particularly “Saturday Sun.” That, and another video I watched, use spare but upbeat instrumentation; “Saturday Sun” is lyrically uncomplicated, but “Riptide” shows signed of more depth. Florence + the Machine do some interesting songs, but seem to be more oriented towards the video productions.
Then there’s the Record Company’s “Life to Fix.” A good groove — their website says they were influenced by John Lee Hooker and bands like the Stooges, and the Stones, and those are pretty good inspirations. But the lyric seems to be four or five repetitions of the same verse. That message is pretty good — but, guys, ya gotta go deeper than that!
First but not least, the Spectrum last week played the new songs by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, the “A” and “B” sides of a single from an album that will be coming out in the later this year. When the DJ was doing the intro, I started to cringe, expecting Sir Paul — who has gotten to be kind of a pompous ass in his advancing years — to lay an egg. Or maybe two.
The songs, though, actually aren’t bad at all — not just a retread of McCartney’s Wings and solo work, although there is a hint of his Flowers in the Dirt sound, and a bit of the Beatles, too. But the sound is kind of flat and one-dimensional, and I’m not sure the lyrics are going to hold up well to repeated listening.
Still, it’s good to hear that the 70-something legends of rock are still doing new stuff. And that there are others out there carrying the torch, even if their inspirations, and the human challenges to which they are responding to, are somewhat different from those that made The Music as great as it was.