For a couple of years 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.
Now that it’s after Memorial Day, public schools are letting out, and it’s getting pretty warm outside, I think it’s summer. So I shared an album that feels like summer to me. But before I get to that, here’s what my friends suggested:
Big Star – #1 Record (1972)
I know next to nothing about this band or album. But they’re Beatles-influenced power pop, so I feel like I should have at least heard of them before. The key is “Beatles-influenced”. Expecting The Beatles would be a mistake, especially when listening to Chris Bell’s vocals. I don’t hate them, but I prefer Alex Chilton’s. Anyway, I can hear The Beatles’ influence in the songwriting and the sound of the guitars, etc.
I was blown away that I knew In the Street – albeit Cheap Trick‘s version (with references to Cleveland Rocks) from the intro of That ’70s Show. I liked that version ok, but I never bothered to look up who it was (or who wrote it). Don’t Lie to Me feels less like ’60s pop rock and more like proto-’80s glam rock. And I really liked it. It was the best of the Bell-sung songs. That sound fits his voice better. My Life is Right was pretty good too. It was at that point that I realized Bell’s voice reminds me of Gregg Rolie’s from Journey.
Maybe the newness of the album was fading a little by the second half, but the only highlight was Watch the Sunrise – and most of that was the guitar. None of the other songs were bad. They were just kind of pedestrian.
My favorite song on the album was Thirteen, and apparently it’s one of Big Star’s more notable songs. I really liked this whole album. I think it’s better than the sum of it’s individual songs. It’s too bad I just discovered this now, I think I would have liked it even more in high school. I think everyone should go through a classic rock phase, and this should be a part of it. 3.75/5
Here’s what my friends thought:
“This was a really fun album. I hadn’t really heard of them, but of course I know the song used for the opening credits of That 70’s Show (which was of course a cover). Overall they had a good sound, and were consistent throughout the album. It is too bad they came out when they did…I think a lot of other bigger acts just got more attention, and they didn’t maybe get the exposure they should have. Anyway, great listen.” 4/5 – Tim
Sugar Ray – Sugar Ray (2001)
I never got into this album (beyond When It’s Over), but I loved 14:59 (the album they released before this one).
And I was immediately surprised how Answer the Phone took me back to the pop punk I listened to in high school/early college I’m looking at you, Sum 41. but it also reminds me vaguely of things ranging from Blink-182 to Counting Crows.
They also gave me of an idea of who to share next week (unless some theme pops up).
I really liked Waiting and Stay On. Nick Hexum (of 311,,)’s influence on that song is obvious, and I was impressed how well their voices blended. When It’s Over was really good, too, but I liked the two that were new to me more than the single I’m familiar with.
There really weren’t any band songs, just not a ton of great ones. But over all, it did have a laid back, school’s out, summertime kind of feel. 3.27/5
From my friends:
“So Sugar Ray always seemed really commercial to me, and immediately turning it on takes me back to High School. I didn’t realize how punk most of his songs are.
I distinctly remember sitting in my buddy’s van on the way to school one morning and When Its Over came on and that break with the scratching really hit me as a cool feature, but I was still too cool to admit I liked Sugar Ray.
I liked this more than I thought I would. Really he’s got some catchy riffs and hooks, but lyrically I just can’t help but think he’s a greasy guy. The collaboration with 311s singer was good because the ska rhythm changed it up and I like his voice a lot.
So overall, really took me back to sitting in my big brothers car, going to a party listening to the punk rock that he liked and I always said I didn’t like. Other than When Its Over though, I don’t think I’ll actually ever pull this up to listen to.” 3.9/5 – Spencer
Ray LaMontagne – Supernova (2014)
I already reviewed Ray LaMontagne on my blog some months ago, so go read that.
In the meantime, here’s what my friends had to say about him/this album:
“So I thought this was pretty cool. It gave me more of a Black Keys vibe than anything, kind of neo-vintage. Especially tracks like She’s the One really I would mistake for a Black Keys song. I like the Black Keys.
His vocals don’t seem to fit the 60’s sound though in my opinion. The raspy-breathy style puts a modern touch to it for me, but it works. I just mean it gives away that its not actually an old album. I actually like Airwaves. It had a cool rhythm that was a nice changeup in the album.
Smashing had a sweet blanket of sound that seems heavy and huge each chorus, between the chill verses. I liked that. Drive in was pretty catchy and fun too, made me want to listen again.
Its interesting that synth-pop bathed in reverb really bugs me, yet guitars in this surreal deep verb I like. Double standard probably, but meh, I like what I like. And I like this.” 4.2/5 – Spencer
“This album was good, but just good for me. It really just sounded like hipster coffee shop music, or what you would hear at the county fair stage while people were resting from walking around…filling time for bigger acts. It just didn’t strike me as that great. Obviously I’m not a musician so take what I say here in context, but the music just felt really simplistic…like he only had a few things he knew how to play and focused on writing lyrics (which were mediocre) and then used his limited stable to make a good cadence that aligned with the words. It seemed like anyone who played in high school and was very talented could just pick up a guitar and mimic it.
Of course I am probably wrong, and he is probably a very talented musician, but that was my impression. BUT it was a good album overall, it just didn’t seem to have substance to me.” 3/5 – Tim