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. Here are the three 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.
John Mayer – Born and Raised (2012)
Kari shared another John Mayer album. I’m not surprised. I was surprised how, right away, this album sounded and felt so different from Continuum. It felt less bluesy soft pop rock, and more … American. It sounds rather silly, but this album feels more laid back. And I like it. A lot.
I’ll jump straight to the point, I gave Continuum a 3/5, but I’d give Born and Raised a 4/5. Looking back at Continuum, it was just okay. The guitar playing was good, the vocals were fine, and most of the songwriting was meh. I didn’t really give John Mayer a chance before because there was so much hype and the few songs I heard didn’t seem to live up to everything I was being told.
Had I started with Born and Raised, I would have understood the hype and said it was merited. He said his primary inspiration was Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Mostly Neil Young. And I think he stayed pretty true to that. Something Like Olivia and Love is a Verb seem like his older stuff, but they were still better than at least half of Continuum.
The only low light for me was Shadow Days. I don’t mind country music, but I don’t really like what this song does. Maybe he took the Neil Young inspiration a bit too far.
Although I will say the music video fits; from locations on Highway 40 near Lake Havasu, Ariz. to Monument Valley to Canyonlands to the I-15/I-84 junction near Tremonton, Utah to Idaho Falls, that’s where my extended family and I live (although he totally ignores the Wasatch Front where 80 percent of Utahns live, but that’s forgivable since he’s trying to go country and a metropolitan area would totally negate that vibe).
Also, I know John Mayer was going through some stuff before he started working on this album, but he really looks like a stoner in that video. Clean it up, man.
Anyway, even Born and Raised, which isn’t exactly a highlight, is still a refreshing change from most of the stuff from Continuum. Sandwich it between Something Like Olivia and the kinda funky If I Ever Get Around to Living and it’s just great album planning.
Avicii – True (2013)
Tim gives me crap about sharing bands with meaningless names. Then he shares Avicii? What does that even mean?
I expected something electronic. But it turned out to be not exactly what I expected. I expected something more … like something Chris would have shared, even though Tim doesn’t always like what Chris shares. It turned out to be a great blend between what I expected and what I had just listened to from John Mayer. Like somebody remixed an album from a singer-songwriter. A couple of weeks ago, Tim shared Phillip Phillips‘ debut. I expected that to be more like this. I expect Idol alumni to sound more produced.
Usually I think “super-produced” is a bad thing. But in Avicii’s case, he sounded like he was just having fun. I never would have thought to listen to this, but I’m glad I did. 3/5
There were a few songs which especially caught my attention. Liar Liar started with (and continued to use throughout the song) something which seemed very Doors’ Light My Fire inspired. The two songs I least expected were Hey Brother, which was a house remix of a country song, and Shame on Me, which seemed to be inspired at least partly by Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz. But they worked. Maybe because those songs were written especially for this purpose instead of actually being remixes. Although now I really want to hear a good techno remix of Ballroom Blitz….
The only song which I didn’t really like was Lay Me Down. It started out alright. I think I just didn’t like the guest vocalist, American Idol alumnus Adam Lambert.
Kings of Convenience – Riot on an Empty Street (2004)
Whoa. This is one of the last things I expected Chris to share. They’re like the modern, Norwegian Simon and Garfunkel. I feel a little high just listening to them.
This whole album is just great. I’ll give this 4/5. If I got more detailed, this album would end up getting a higher rating than Born and Raised, but both albums are great. This album, though, makes me want to pick up my guitar and make more music. John Mayer didn’t make me want to do that.
But of course there are some songs which I didn’t really care for. In this case the lyrics of Sorry or Please didn’t seem to really fit the music. I mean they seem to have been written independently of one another. They emphasize words or syllables in an unnatural way. Plus, I’m not really a fan of the melody.
But pretty much all of the other songs on the album are highlights. So there you go.
Also, for your entertainment, I know Taylor Swift has been getting a lot of crap about her latest music video. And for good reason. It’s dumb. But if you want to see a music video with ballerinas, check out Kings of Convenience’s video for I’d Rather Dance with You. Chris nailed it when he said it seems out of place, but totally works in a Norwegian Napoleon Dynamite kind of way. Check it out:
Blitzen Trapper – Furr (2008)
Last week I shared Streelight. The week before, The Cat Empire. And before that, LTJ. They are all bands with a big sound and no short supply of energy. I thought I’d change it up a bit this week. As it turns out, most everything shared this week really changed up the mood. Way to screw it up, Tim.
While I’m not sure this is their best album (American Goldwing might have that honor – except I haven’t heard their latest release), it is the album that got me into them.
I first heard the last track on this album, Lady on the Water, and I was sold. I bought the album without listening to anything else of theirs. That can be risky, but in this case it turned out well. There were songs I liked right away (like Furr or Black River Killer) and others which grew on me (like … well, everything else).
You might not be able to tell right away from this album, but they think of themselves as an alt. country band. I feel like this album is definitely an alt. something record, but I’m not sure I’d say alt. country. Stolen Shoes and a Rifle is really the only song I think really fits into that category. I’d say it’s more alt. folk than alt. country. I can hear some Bob Dylan influence. But mostly, it’s just alt. rock – played by an alt. folk band, I guess. Love U is one of the last things I’d expect from any sort of country album, along with any sort of metal or hip-hop. It’s the one song that took the longest to grow on me, and I’m still not sure the first minute has. 3/5
If you like it, and want to keep it going, a year later they were going to release Black River Killer as a single, but they couldn’t pick B-side from the 6 tracks that didn’t make it on Furr. So they put them all together on an EP. Shoulder Full of You might be my favorite from that. But they’re really all good. Maybe even better as a whole than Furr….
I’ll give you a minute to listen to them.
So what’d you think? Was it too alt. folk rock? Did you want more acoustic, Neil Young Americana? Here’s what my coworkers thought.
“I believe this album came out right after I had seen them live. When I saw them, I knew nothing about them, I was just going with friends. But they put on a great show. Here’s something funny: I don’t really like Bob Dylan, mostly because his of his voice. But when I hear a singer who tends to sounds “Dylan-esque” I usually do like them. Not sure what that’s about. Maybe I would actually like Dylan more if I listened to him more. I like Blitzen Trapper’s storytelling as well. The first song that really jumped out at me was track three “Black River Killer.” It had a great rolling groove and rhythmic lyrics. The following track “God & Suicide” had a nice groove too. In fact, I think I prefer their more upbeat numbers. I think on repeated listens I could see this one having room to grow. Overall, this album has reminded me I need to check them out further than I had. A good listen.” 7.75/10 -Chris
“This album surprised me. I really liked it. Then again, it felt like 70’s rock at times to me, which is a sound I already like. While enjoyed the album, it wasn’t one that I would necessarily purchase. BUT, I would definitely listen again. I think the saddest thing for me was that they didn’t feel like they were their own music. What I mean by this, is that their music didn’t feel genuine, but felt like an homage to a byone era. So while it was music that technically deserved a 4, the lack of soul for me landed them in 3.” -Tim