Wednesday, August 04, 2010

newsboys: born again

looks like there has been another shake up in the newsboys line up! newsboys is a group that has been changing members for a long time, back when i first started listening to them, right around 'take me to your leader', it was five guys with lead singers were john james and peter furler. over the course of their career the band has gotten many different members and even some different lead singers. i thought they hit their stride around the 'step up to the microphone' and 'love liberty disco' phase, which are my favorites. as the years went on they lost some direction as a band, putting out some pretty generic work, but they found their direction again with their worship albums. after that they floundered again with a couple forgettable albums (especially 'in the hands of God', very bland). turns out, it was time for them to change it up again. this time their lead singer, peter furler, left the band. it looked like it was time for the 'boys' to wrap it up and call it a career. then they found a new lead singer in the form of michael tait, one of the former lead singers of d.c. talk. i wasnt sure what to make of this radical change. even though they had mixed up their line up before, they still kept their basic sound. this was going to change everything! i had loved tait in d.c. talk, and even enjoyed a couple of his solo albums under the band name 'tait', but i wasnt sure if his sound fit with the newsboys. turns out, i didnt have anything to worry about! the latest album, fittingly titled 'born again', shows the 'boys' back at it, and the influence of michael tait has reinvigorated all of them, it seems. this album is fantastic! the first single 'born again' is so catchy and wonderful that you cant help but love it! well, it looks like that song wasnt a fluke- the whole album is amazing! as i look through the song list, i cant even pick out a favorite. 'one shot' is a lot of fun, 'way beyond myself' is really catchy, 'when the boys light up' is good old fashioned newsboys fun, and the rest are great as well. the only misstep on the album was the choice to rerecord an old d.c. talk song 'jesus freak'. that one was great for its time, but has not aged well... and if you are going to rerecord it, at least give us something new- it sounds exactly like the original. fortunately, the other 11 tracks are so much fun that one misstep can be forgiven. the newsboys certainly have been 'born again', and better than ever!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

U2: no line on the horizon

ive like U2 for a while now. i didnt get into them until they released the album 'pop' (which i realize i am in the vast minority here, but think is their best album so far). i loved the resurgence they had at the beginning of the decade with 'all that you cant leave behind', but was pretty disappointed with 'how to dismantle an atomic bomb'. due to that disappointment, i didnt plan on picking up this newest album. that, and the dislike of their first single off this disc 'get on your boots'. well, with some encouraging from my old roommate sean, i gave it a listen. turns out that its pretty good! after listening to it a couple times through i was hooked. i guess bono's still got it! there are some real stand out songs in this album, such as the title song and 'i'm going to go crazy if i dont go crazy tonight'. they are good old U2 at their best! which begs the question: who is picking the lead single for these guys?!? after spending a month or two listening to this album exclusively and really enjoying it, i must say that 'get on your boots' is one of the weakest songs on the album! why would they put their weakest 'boot' forward? (pun intended...) i'm sure there are a lot of fans who heard that one on the radio and, like me, gave the album a pass. they missed out on some really great U2 songs because of that poor first single selection. well, hopefully they are in the studio again getting ready for the next album, and this time they wont make the same mistakes...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

joy electric: favorites at play

ahh! a new full length joy electric album at last! its great to have some new material from joy electric, but with this album there is one catch: its not original material, its an album of cover songs. now, i'm not saying thats bad, i'm just saying its not as good as hearing ronnie martin's own stuff.
this collection is a set of cover songs from some of today's bigger bands, its not old songs, but rather ronnie's take on songs from the last few years. he covers everything from fiest's '1,2,3,4' to coldplay's 'viva la vida'. it's pretty interesting to hear syth versions of many of these songs, but the problem is that i am not really up to date on what is on the radio anymore. i have a cd player in my car, so i rarely listen to the radio, so much of these tunes are new to me. since i'm not that familiar with the original material, the songs tend to sound a bit out of place with the usual joy electric sound. the thing about joy electric's catalog of music is that it is very unique and out there. to put his sound on something that is pretty standard, like a rock song, it seems like he is limiting himself by having to play by someone else's rules. some of the songs, like keane's 'somewhere only we know' fall flat and are pretty bland. but then there are some others, some of the songs are so beautiful in their original form that ronnie is able to take these gems and polish them with his own sound and create something magical. the best example of this is the song 'falling slowly' from the 'once' soundtrack. i would not have thought this simple song, originally played on an acoustic guitar and piano, would lend itself to the techy sound of a synth, but it becomes something more than it was. the song soars to new heights, and digs even deeper with ronnie's emotional vocals. the ethereal sound of it is pure paradise. also, its nice to see him collaborating on the album with his wife, who plays a moog synth on some of the songs.
some of the covers are bland, but songs like 'falling slowly' are reimagined in such an amazing new way that the album is worth owning purely for that one song!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

relient k: forget and not slow down

these guys can do no wrong! their first studio album since 'five score and seven years ago' finds these guys a little older, a little wiser, and life a lot more complicated. the lyrics on this album are just as amazing as the rest of their stuff, but there is a bit of a shift from light hearted word play, to more soulful introspection. the title song sounds breezy, but the lyrics about breaking up and forgetting to examine yourself and learn from it are very poignant. the rest of the album flows from this well, examining life from different situations and trying to understand what it means. there are quite a few transition songs that lead from one tune to the next, making the whole album one that must be listened to all the way through. the highlight of the album is the song 'sahara' and its transition into the beautiful 'savannah', which feels like a trip from the desert into a beautiful prairie, as the names would suggest. the vocals from matthew theissen (who is also the chief songwriter) seem more matured and poetic this time through. gone are the vocalizations that the band started with in its pop-punk sound, they are replaced with the melodic yearnings we now hear from a band that has more than hit its stride, they are at an all out sprint! can these guys possibly get any better? i, for one, am more than willing to find out!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

black lab: give us sugar

ever since college i have been a fan of black lab. when they first came out it was right during the hay day of 90's rock grunge (which is my favorite!), they had a couple hits on the radio which were really cool. when i lived with rex at college he had their 'your body above me' album and we would rock out to it regularly. the problem, though, was that they never came out with a follow up. a few years later rex and i were talking about music and black lab came up. i thought 'dude, we should totally check and see if they have put out anything else since their first one!' so i did a little online searching (i would say i googled it, but this was before google...) and found that they had released a five song disc with a few songs from what they would eventually release. i got rex and i each a copy of it and it was amazing! the short sampler, called 'i feel fine', was amazing and reminded us both why black lab rocks so much! since then they have released two full length albums, which i have also gotten from their website. i even signed up for the email newsletters that the lead singer/songwriter paul puts out sometimes(i'm a major dork, i know). over the summer i got an email from the lead singer and he said that he was going to make a couple hundred double disc albums of some of the band's unreleased stuff. i quickly ordered myself a copy and got one of the first prints of the album! it is really good too. there are over thirty tracks on it, some of them are extra songs from different recording sessions that didn't quite make it on the albums they were recorded for, some are rough demos of songs that he did release, and others were songs featured on movie soundtracks. there are many gems in the bunch, but the best part is being able to hear paul's different takes on some of the songs, hearing them in their rough forms, and listening to some of the more unusual songs that didn't fit the albums they were written for. its a ton of music, and a really cool look into the different branches the band has taken.

Friday, September 04, 2009

owl city: maybe i'm dreaming

i came across this band in a fairly strange way. one of my former students gave me this cd. now, my students know i love joy electric because we listen to it often while they are working on homework. she must have remembered that and thought that owl city sounded similar, so she gave the cd to her little brother who is still a student. she attached a little note saying how much she loved this band and thought i might too. boy, was she right! she actually gave me the cd 'maybe i'm dreaming', and owl city's newest cd 'ocean eyes'. for some reason i just happened to pop in 'maybe i'm dreaming' first, not really aware that it was their first album. from the first listen i knew: i have a new favorite band! it now joins the ranks of joy electric and reliant k, which is kind of interesting, because owl city strangely sounds like a perfect mix of the two! it has the melodic focus of those two bands, the synth-pop feel of joy electric, and the vocal sound and style of reliant k. perfect! the tunes on this first cd are really amazing. its very light and popy, and the songs just have a beautiful flow to them. i'm not sure it thats really how smooth his voice is, or if he's using a voice changer to make it sound that way. some highlights of the disc are 'the salt water room', and 'dear vienna'. he, like joy electric, is able to find a simple hook that can get stuck in the head for days!
i got the cds a few weeks ago and have fallen in love. i havent actually even put the second disc in the player yet- i'm still too obsessed with this first one!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

foxglove hunt: stop heartbeat

the foxglove hung is a side project of ronnie martin, of joy electric, and rob withem, of fine china. they have worked together before, ronnie was the producer of fine china's first disc. as a fan of joy electric i knew i had to get it just to hear what other things ronnie has been up to. the album is really good, it has a 70's syth vibe to it, which i really enjoy. some of the strongest songs on the album are 'the life highrise', and 'that's getting personal'. as always, the melodies and hooks are strong, and the beats are thumping (quite a change from the usual joy electric fare). on some of the best songs there is a full rich sound that ties it together and gives it its unique personality. a very good album, i hope these guys work together again soon!

joy electric: curiosities and such

its been a while since ronnie put out any music under the joy electric banner, so it was with very high spirits that i dug into this album. and let me tell you, i was not disappointed at all! musically its very much in the style of his last outing, 'my grandfather, the cubist', but still very different. its a very short disc, with only 6 songs, one of which is an instrumental, and another is just the title song with out the vocal tracks. ronnie has always been a fan of the whole 'short and sweet' mentality, and this cd sticks to that. all the songs are very catchy and quite good, but there is a stand out among the songs: 'which witch' is an instant classic with its unusual chorus hook and great music. that song rockets straight to the upper echelon of the best songs joy electric has ever written!

beyonce: i am sasha fierce

for her birthday i got the new one from beyonce for my wife. i didn't mess around either, i got the deluxe edition, which featured five extra songs. this album is divided up into two discs for some reason, one of them is the slow, heart felt stuff, and the other disc is all the loud dance floor tunes. now, i personally have never cared for beyonce or her music, but having listened to it often (diana usually has it playing in her car when we go out anywhere), i have to admit, its actually not bad. no, i will go even further than that, i will admit that i actually like it! the only song i had known before was the 'put a ring on it' song, but i really love 'if i were a boy', and 'halo' (which diana said reminds her of me, so for that reason alone i like the song!). now, dont worry, i'm not going all hip-hop or anything, but i have to give recognition to a great album when i hear it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

our wedding cd

diana and i made a mix cd for our wedding and we gave it out to all the guests during the reception. the songs are a collection of different tunes that have played a part in our relationship. some of them come from different mix cds that diana and i have made for each other while we were dating, others are ones that we have heard while we were together that we both loved. here is the song list from the cd. some of them we dont actually know the names of or the artist of, but we know we love the songs!
this collection of songs is the soundtrack to our relationship- the music we fell in love to!

1. better together by jack johnson
2. dance away the city by andrew osenga
3. the best thing by relient k
4. kiss me by sixpence none the richer
5. such great heights by iron and wine
6. 500 miles by the pretenders
7. the lining is silver by relient k
8. when the day met the night by panic at the disco
9. sugar rush by joy electric
10. something beautiful by newsboys
11. i got my mind set on you by george harrison
12. i want all of you by verve pipe
13. by jack johnson
14. i'm taking you with me by relient k
15. birdhouse in your soul by they might be giants
16. never let you down by verve pipe
17. what do i care? by johnny cash
18. it's always you
19. reach your love by paul mccartney
20. take my life and let it be by andrew osenga

Monday, December 08, 2008

wedding mixtape

ever since diana and i started dating she has been introducing me to some different music. a couple months into our relationship we made mixtapes for each other so that we could try out a few of the bands each other liked. there were some really good ones on there, and she felt the same about the one i made for her. we were thinking about the wedding and thought it would be pretty cool to make a mixtape of all the songs that we love together, or songs that make us think of each other. we were thinking we could make a 'wedding mixtape' and give one to each of our guests as a small gift.
this weekend we finally sat down and started organizing and selecting what songs we would like to include. we made a copy of the songs for each of us and are going to listen to it for the next week or two and see if we like the picks and try to figure out what order would be the best for the songs. so far i can think of one i'd like to add, and one of mine i realized doesnt really fit in with the rest. im not going to be revealing the playlist until its finalized, though. (but dont worry, there will be at least one joy electric song!)

Monday, July 28, 2008

relient k: birds and the bee sides

wow! with each new release from the guys from relient k are raising higher and higher in my list of favorites! i had barely taken their last album, 'five score and seven years ago' out of the player, and then they released this one!
this is a single disc with two albums on it. first is a new ep titled 'nashville tennis ep' which has some really great songs on it, the best of the lot is 'the lining is silver'. they try a few different things in this group of songs, and are able to pull it all off wonderfully. the second album on the disc, called 'the bird and the bee side', is a collection of b-sides and unreleased stuff. it includes a couple of acoustic versions of previous songs as well. this side is filled with more great songs, from the silly, such as 'five iron frenzy is either dead or dying', to more experimental stuff like 'the stenographer'.
over all an incredible collection of 26 songs. im guessing it will be a year or so before this one leaves my player...

jon foreman: 4 seasons

this past fall jon foreman released a double disc single set. this past week i got the other set, completing the series of four (explained further here).
after spending some time with it, i must say that the series is quite good, if uneven. the first set, 'fall and winter', is the better of the two. its filled with songs of longing and realizations. the best of this first set is 'equally skilled' and 'learning how to die'. both capture the search and discoveries that are a part of the christian life. this first set has been a recent favorite of mine, and is the direction i had wished from switchfoot after 'beautiful letdown'.
the second set, 'spring and summer' is not as engaging. the set is filled with guest vocalists and what seems to be an almost forced variety of music. we get a whole bunch of different instrumentation, but it just doesnt feel as focused or as personal. the lyrics seem a bit awkward too, as in the song 'love isnt made', and 'baptize my mind'. its also upbeat, which is good, but its upbeat in a way that doesnt sync well with jons voice, in my opinion. but i have been accused of liking 'slow and boring' songs before, so maybe this is just my bias coming through.

Friday, June 20, 2008

gavin rossdale: wanderlust

for a while now ive been complaining any time someone would mention gwen stephani. 'why does she get all the attention? her husband is much better! why doesnt he put out any new music?' well, i guess he must have heard me, because he finally released his first solo album! a few years ago bush broke up, and gavin rossdale formed a new band called 'institute' and released a cd (which was amazing! which i review here), but since then there had been nothing.
with his solo cd he seems to be back in fine form. over all, this album is a bit on the lighter side. gavin seems to be more focused on 'light rock' this time out, which stands in stark contrast to the heavy rock of 'institute'. the album is filled with references to his new life, most songs are about family, fatherhood, and being married. some of the songs are a bit bland and forgettable, but the stand out song is definitely 'forever may you run' the chorus is instantly catchy and will roll around in your head for days.
over all i would say this is 'bush' lite- great songs, but less filling.

joy electric: my grandfather, the cubist

ah, yes. its time once again for a joy electric album! truly the happiest time of year!!! i was very excited to get this one, considering that the last album, 'the otherly opus', was their best since 'the white songbook'.
in this album ronnie has once again gone in a different direction. with his last album the focus was squarely on the vocals, which led to some beautiful layered harmonies. but this time, he shifts back to an equal weighting between vocals and music. the singing on this album is not quite as melodic and airy as his last effort, but the vocal shift is not too drastic, there was a bit stronger vocals similar to this on 'red will dye these snows of silver'. its a bit of a change, but still good.
the thing that continually impresses me about this band is its ability to write a catchy tune. as i listened to it through the first time i had a bit of a strange feeling- though it was only the first time i had ever heard them, they felt like songs i had known all my life! as i listened i wondered 'how could this have never been written before?!?' i guess that just speaks to the amazing gift ronnie has with writing a catchy melody.
the tune that immediately struck me as a favorite was 'whether by horse, or horseless'. it is a beautiful melody, and surprisingly deep lyrics. this is true of the entire album, ronnie seems to have taken his songwriting to a new level. gone are the constant references to lilly pads and gumdrops, replaced by honest critiques of love and relationships. i always loved the light hearted aspects to his lyrics before, but it is a welcome change to hear some deeper thoughts.
the pinnacle of the album is definitely the title track. the song is actually a trilogy of songs, bookended by instrumentals that echo the melody and guide us to the song and out into the bigger picture being presented.
an impressive addition to the joy electric catalogue. it will spend many many months in my cd player...