For more than a year, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.
Bamboo – Light Peace Love (2005)
Going into this album, all I knew about this album is that this is Pinoy Rock, but only one song is in Tagalog.
After listening, I can say I’m not really a fan. It’s kinda jazzy pop rock. On paper it seems like something I’d like, but not when it comes to execution. It comes off just kinda “meh” for the most part. Sometimes they mix other genres in. Songs like Much has Been Said and Truth had a little reggae in them, and it was ok. The vocal style in Alpha Beta Omega was kind of hip hop. They did it a little in Hallelujah, too. And I didn’t love it. It seems like they’re trying really hard to move me, and maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for what they had going, but most of the album didn’t really do anything for me.
Musically I think my favorite tracks were 04 (which somehow I listened to last. I really liked the stripped down acoustic feel of the song, but I’m not sure it’s a great album opener), F.U. (which was very much a late ’90s, early ’00s post-grunge alt rock tune. Except for the titular lyric, I would have eaten this up in junior high and high school) and Children of the Sun (which was a little prog-ish). Those were the highlights.
I feel like this wasn’t a great review, but it’s what you get. Maybe they didn’t catch me on a good week and they deserve another chance. Maybe I’ll try giving these guys another listen sometime, but it might be a while. 3/5
Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops and Hooligans (2010)
This in’t exactly what I expected from Bruno Mars. I mean, it’s still super-produced electro-pop, but it’s more musical that Uptown Funk, which is so far my only exposure to Bruno Mars. Runaway Baby, The Other Side and Marry You were the closest thing to what I expected, but still better. Marry You had a little ’60s pop rock to it. Plus the wedding bells were a nice (if somewhat obvious) touch.
And contrary to the title, I did not hear any doo-wop.
Count on Me was especially good. It seems almost Jason Mraz-y. Maybe a little more commercial than I would write, but who can fault the guy for trying to actually make some money off his music? I’d cover it. I’d also throw that on a playlist of some more chill things.
As soon as I saw that Damian Marley was on Liquor Store Blues, I knew pretty much exactly what I was going to get. And I wasn’t disappointed. Ironically, I like my reggae with more straightforward vocals (like how Bruno Mars did them) and less dub vocals (like how Damian did them). I think you won’t be surprised to hear I liked the feel of The Lazy Song, although I didn’t really care for the lyrics. With Liquor Store Blues and The Lazy Song, like Elton John, I don’t understand why Tim likes this and not so much the reggae/ska I’ve shared. I’m chalking it up to a quantity thing.
There were some things which were more meh. Grenade, Just the Way You Are and Our First Time were cheesy, but if your target audience is teens to 30-year-old women, then I think you’re on the right track. Our First Time actually reminded me of waiting room or hold music level soft jazz with vocals and a kind of reggae bass line.
All in all, I was impressed at not being what I expected, as well as being pretty good pop rock. There’s some variety, but it’s all pretty accessible. Which is to say it’s almost generic, but not boring. It’s a pretty solid 3/5.
Elvis Presley – Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite (1973)
Oh. Man. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to a whole Elvis record. And now I get to listen to two! Well, a double live album.
The first two CDs that were actually mine and nobody else’s were Chumbawamba’s Tubthumper and an Elvis CD. Somewhere during high school I lost it and unfortunately I was a slave to trends and never got another. Elvis is one of those early influences I had, but because he wasn’t really in vogue when I was starting to perform and record my own music, I’ve kind of stopped thinking of him as an influence. But he’s also an indirect influence. I’m not sure I can count how many of my acknowledged influences also cite him as inspiration. It’s a snowball effect.
I definitely like his more rock version of See See Rider than Old Crow Medicine Show’s version. I don’t know that Elvis’ vocals are great, but they beat Critter Fuqua’s. The live orchestra behind him on Something was cool, but his vocal style wasn’t quite as good George Harrison‘s. And I think I liked Christopher Lee’s hard rock rendition of Sinatra’s My Way better than Elvis’ more faithful cover. His version of Johnny B. Goode is good, but it’s hard to compete with
Marty McFly’s Chuck Berry’s original. The only other version of It’s Over I’ve ever heard was by Joan Baez, and it was just different. They’re both great, but for different reasons.
I forget sometimes that early rock and roll was pretty much what we’d call country rock or even rockabilly today. And most of Elvis’ stuff is covers (copyright laws were different before the late ’60s). But I didn’t really expect him to go jazz. His vocal style isn’t great for Fever, but I’ve heard worse versions. The ladies in the audience sure seemed to enjoy this performance. Musically, I don’t think he had faded yet. His voice is lower, but the other side of that is that it sounds more mature. He doesn’t vibrato nearly as much as he did early in his career. It seems like this was the last highlight before things really started going downhill.
It was while listening to What Now My Love that I decided my favorite songs off this album were the ones I had not previously heard studio recordings of. Live albums are kind of like greatest hits in that the song choices are (more so on greatest hits, but still) curated for maximum commercial success. Not that I’m complaining. But very few live albums do more that present the songs in a less-produced setting, with the occasional clapping or yelling in the background. Which is what this album does. It’s like listening to the studio album in a group setting. I think a concert should be more than that. And especially recordings of concerts.
The two songs I had heard before that really felt better than the studio version were Suspicious Minds and Can’t Help Falling in Love, even though I think they were just a little faster and there were more horn hits in the background. Plus the little slow breakdown in the middle of Suspicious Minds was nice. I think they were the best songs of the concert.
Other highlights include Burning Love, A Big Hunk o’ Love and Early Morning Rain. The only real lowlight were I Can’t Stop Loving You and I’ll Remember You. They were just kind of sappy, but they weren’t bad songs. So as far as a live album goes, it’s just alright. As a compilation album that happens to be made up of live songs that were all performed the same night (or two), it’s pretty good. And as just an album, it’s somewhere between pretty good and great. It’s grood. 3/5
Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song (2011)
This week I’m sharing some indie rock.
I discovered these guys around the same time I discovered The Head and the Heart (although I think they’re just a little folk-ier than Grouplove). They have some kinda weird stuff, and I totally get it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s pretty interesting from a writing and song structure point of view.
All the singles came from the front half of the album, but all of my favorite stuff is on the back half. And I will say I don’t always love Christian Zucconi’s voice. It can get nasally or whiny or something.
Here’s what my friends thought:
“I was surprised by this one. I honestly didn’t know who it was (until the first track) and it just wasn’t what I thought it might be based on the cover art. Yes I judged an album by its cover. But it was really good. Each song was well played, had some soul behind it, and meshed really well with the other songs. As an album, the songs flowed well from track to track, and kept an over all feel that swelled at the right moments. It really was good, and I will listen to it and others by them again.” 4/5 – Tim
“Its weird that I’ve listened to this before, but this time its really doing something for me. First time through I was annoyed by the singer’s voice on the opening tracks, but once I heard Slow the rest of the album seemed just perfect. Cruel and Beautiful World is a great sing along. I had to listen to the album again. The second time through suddenly the quirks of the singer on Itchin on a Photograph are what makes the song. Now its stuck in my head. Great melodys, good rhythm, just nice song-smithing. This one is a winner. I’ll be listening to this more.” 4.8/5 – Spencer
Please share your thoughts about Grouplove, Filipino rock, modern pop stars who actually have musical talent, past mega stars, or whatever else in the comments below.