Is it Me You’re Looking For?

Some of my co-workers and I started sharing some of our favorite music. We’ve been doing it for a while, but now we’re actually reviewing them and sharing those reviews with one another. So here are the two albums that were suggested to me this week.

A note on how I rate things. One star means I don’t think it qualifies as music. Five stars mean I wish I wrote the thing. Most music for me is a three.

Savage Garden – Affirmation (1999)

I don’t know that I’ve ever actually heard Savage Garden. One of my friends was in a band that covered the title track off this album. I really like both versions, but for different reasons. And as I listened to the original, I think my friend’s band changed some of the words; some of the things Savage Garden say aren’t what my friend and his band mates believe, so I think they changed the words to match their own beliefs.

And I don’t blame them.

Not that the late 90s were all that different from nowadays, but considering the whole album has a distinctly 80s feel, it seems at least 10 years older. I had to force myself to remember this album is only 15 years old, because I kept thinking how much what they were singing about reflected today’s American society.

Anyway, this album seems like something my wife would have listened to in junior high. And she probably did. She probably got it from her older sister who actually bought music (Actually, I asked my wife and she said, yes, she listened to Savage Garden in junior high, but she didn’t get it from her sister. She got it from her brother. Hmm….). It has elements of boy band stuff and other 90s pop, but without the rap and hip hop that was starting to become popular. Instead it borrows heavily from the 80s, which has since become the thing to do even though at the time everyone was trying to forget the 80s.

Most of the album was surprisingly fun songs. There were some lowlights, though. I can handle some sappy cheese, but I Knew I Loved You and You is just a little much. This is like the love song from some late 80s/early 90s B movie. The only reason I didn’t skip it was to A) give it a chance and 2) to say I listened to the whole album. And You can Still be Free is the song that plays over the closing credits of that same crappy movie. Although I think Two Beds and a Coffee Machine touches on an important subject, I always think songs about abuse are weird. I don’t want to hear that; that’s not why I listen to music.

Gunning Down Romance and I Don’t Know You Anymore weren’t horrible, but it would have been nice to end the album the way they started it, with something more upbeat. As it was the last few songs just had no energy and was just dragging on. So in the end, the album as a whole barely pulls out a three.

Andrew Belle – The Ladder (2010)

I actually have a couple of songs off this album, mostly because I’m kind of a fan of Katie Herzig, who’s featured on the second track, Static Waves. The whole album, like that song, is just chill. When Kari shared it, she said it reminded her of summer. With that in mind, this album does seem like something I listened to while cruising through the mountain passes on our way back to Logan from Salt Lake after some festival, fair or great rock show, four of us scrunched in the back of my roommate’s convertible Chevy Malibu while the crisp mountain air whipped through our hair.

The one song that really stood out to me that I hadn’t heard before that I really ended up loving was Reach. I love how the simple, yet rather earnest guitar picking, two percussion parts and the piano come together and build to a rather abrupt end. Don’t Blame Yourself and My Oldest Friend are also pretty good.

And that’s it. It’s just a solid, chill album.

The Go! Team – Rolling Blackouts (2011)

When the first song started playing I had a really hard time not just turning it off. If that’s what this album was going to be like, I couldn’t listen to that. The discordant, obviously synthesized brass makes me anxious. It’s all just noise. The first thing I’ve heard in the past 8-ish weeks that would get a one star.

But I (unlike Phil) have faith in Chris and his taste in music. I hoped that if I pushed through, I would be rewarded with some really great music.

And immediately after that first track, I was. The Secretary Song seemed like something I’d expect from a Japanese commercial. Like this:

But for most of the album, there was just too much going on. there were so many layers, and I couldn’t even tell which should have been removed. I think the vocals seemed like they were having fun, but it was so hard to tell.

There were some songs I really liked, mostly instrumentals. the rabble rousing Bust-Out Brigade seemed like something a marching band would play at half-time. And was Yosemite Theme a song from a 60s or 70s TV show about the California gold rush? It seems like it should have been.

But in the end, I’m not sure the payoff was so great that I’d go back to the album as a whole, maybe just a few select songs.

As it turns out, Ian Parton (who is the brains behind this operation) said in an interview that this album is his idea of schizophrenic music. Well, good job. That’s exactly what I got.

Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down (1983)

Going into this album, the only song I knew was Hello, and that’s only because Ellen DeGeneres is mean to the writers on her show and makes them do weird things, like go to Michael’s and talk only in lyrics. This was one of those songs that she used, and the writer ended up getting a hug out of it. I wish I could find a clip. I looked, but I guess Ellen doesn’t keep clips that old on her site.

Anyway, in case you missed the fact that this album was released before G.I.*Joe was widely thought of as a 3 3/4 inch toy, everything about the first track revels in what is now known as the Reagan era. I mean, I don’t even know what genre this is. Is it soul? Motown? Funk? R&B? Who can tell, and really who cares?

All Night Long (All Night), aside from having a silly name, seems like something The Police would have done. It almost felt like something from the Caribbean, but not. I mean, it’s not real ska, reggae, mento or calypso (which I usually prefer), but I don’t know that I care this time. It’s just fun.

On the other end of the album, I really like the simple yet driving Running With the Night. I especially like the guitar solos by one of the guys from Toto. Apparently, when he went in to record the solo he asked the engineer to roll it. He thought he was just going to get a listen through so he could figure out what he wanted to do. But the engineer ended up recording his noodlings and that’s what ended up on the record.

And those are the real highlights for me. Most of the album is just 80s soft rock. It’s not bad, but it is a little boring. I guess I prefer his more dancey stuff to his ballads – the best of which is easily Hello, with its almost Spanish guitar solo, melancholy string arrangement and the Picardy Third that brings the whole album to a close.

Wolfmother – Wolfmother (2005)

I shared with them Wolfmother, which seems like vintage hard rock, but itsn’t. I guess that makes it retro. These guys are from Australia and they really rock. They’re like transplants from the 70s. Listening to them, I never would have thought their lead singer, Andrew Stockdale, looked like this:

Look at that giant red hair! It’s like an orange on a toothpick. And that mustache! Those chops! Upon further reflection, that’s pretty much exactly what I should have expected. And I’m pretty sure even if you’ve never heard these guys, you’ll get exactly what you expect from that picture. By no means is it “intellectual music” (‘cause, you know, they are Australian), but it’s fun. And maybe the second album I’ve shared so far I’d rate 5/5.

Actually, here’s the video to Woman (which got some pretty significant airplay when it came out) to get you in the mood.

Here’s what my coworkers thought of Wolfmother:

“Not surprising I dug this album. I could totally listen to them again, but I found the music to be an imitation more than the real thing. It seemed throughout the album that they were emulating more than using their own soul/talent/creativity. The music itself was well structured and executed, but it just didn’t seem genuine to me. So, 3 stars.” -Tim

“Another album I was fairly familiar with already, but hadn’t listened to in awhile. These guys fill an aching desire I often have for a perfectly distorted electric guitar wailing some wonderfully contracted riffage. Not enough bands like this these days. Wolfmother’s songwriting isn’t quite interesting enough for me to have ever fully embraced them, but for what they are, they are quite enjoyable. The first three tracks are so stellar that I sometimes can’t help but be slightly disappointed with the rest of the album, even though there are some scorchers sporadically spread throughout. This time around I enjoyed “Apple Tree” a lot more than I remember. A little more of an up-beat punk number than most of their tunes. And a sweet riff as it goes. I’ve also really grown to love “Vagabond,” especially after it’s PERFECT placement in 500 Days of Summer. A perfectly placed song can sometimes make a movie, and this is one such case. That movie was full of great music moments, and “Vagabond” being the best.  A very fun, very old-school rock album that should always be played loud. I should re-listen to their second album Cosmic Egg. 7.5/10

TRIVIA: The boys from Silverchair are good friends with the boys from Wolfmother. In fact, that’s how I first heard of them.” -Chris

“So, this album was AWESOME. Dimension was a perfect starter song to this album, and I didn’t realize these were the guys that played White Unicorn! I’ve heard that song a lot on the radio. It’s one of those songs I liked, but never knew who played it. The first three songs were perfect, then when Where Eagles Have Been hit – I was blown away. I love when an album throws a bunch of fast songs at you – then hits you with a slower, calmer song. What I don’t love is when it’s apparent the slower song isn’t their cup of tea, and I think Where Eagles Have Been stuck to their true nature – but mixed up the energy a bit. THEN…Joker And The Thief? The clarity of that guitar riff at the beginning…Just…Man. That was also amazing. I couldn’t play this on guitar hero for the life of me, and I usually play on expert, so you know that’s a compliment. The only little thing that threw me off was Love Train. I felt like it threw me off a bit, messed up with the vibe for me – and I thought the vocal balance seemed a bit off. I think that’s a minor thing….Still loved it.

This is why I love our weekly album sharing, we’re introduced to some awesome stuff. I gave it 4.5 stars because of it’s awesomeness.” -Kari

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