Songs of the Week: 1/24/2020

In 2019, I was listening to every new release that came up on the Tidal streaming service. I would listen to the first two tracks at a minimum. If those didn’t strike some kind of chord, I moved on to the next one. If they did, I listened to the full album and then reviewed it here.

For 2020, I’m going to change it up a bit so that I can introduce the masses to more great new music that I can’t always put to words in album form. I’m still going to listen to all those records but instead of writing up full albums, I’m simply going to post links to “songs of the week.” This way, I can point out many more great songs and you can then go and hunt more tunes down yourself if you so choose.

So… songs of the week for the release date of 1/24/2020.

  • Artist: Pet Shop Boys
  • Song: “I Don’t Wanna”
  • Album: Hotspot
  • Genre: Synth-pop
  • Notes: Pet Shop Boys are one of my favorite artists of all time, so when a new album comes out, I have to highlight them somehow. Upon first listen, the album is so-so, certainly not up there with their best records but it’s pretty much vintage Pet Shop Boys, so it’s hard to argue with that. “Monkey Business” is a great song but it’s been out as a single for a month now, so let’s use “I Don’t Wanna” here.
  • Artist: Cold War Kids
  • Song: “Freedom”
  • Album: Strings & Keys
  • Genre: Alt. Rock/Pop
  • Notes: I’m only familiar enough with Cold War Kids to know that I don’t like them so I’m not 100% sure what this album is as it looks like it might have been a bit of a surprise release but it appears to be songs of theirs re-recorded with strings & keys…. hence the title. And have I ever told you I love a good cover song? Well, RIP George Michael.
  • Artist: Twin Atlantic
  • Song: “Oh! Euphoria!”
  • Album: POWER
  • Genre: Alt Rock
  • Notes: POWER, is the 5th album from this Scottish trio. I’ve never heard of them before but might go check them out based on this. The album is decent enough alt/electronic rock and this track is pure fun. Am I a sucker for tracks with multiple exclamation points in the title? Well, shit yeah!!
  • Artist: Mystery Jets
  • Song: “Screwdriver”
  • Album: Pretty Drone EP
  • Genre: Indie Rock
  • Notes: Rawk! Another band that’s been around for a decade-and-a-half that I’ve never heard of before. This is what I get for being out of the new music game for a decade-and-a-half myself, I guess. I’m not a big fan of this EP as a whole – I think the band could be pretty interesting but the other four tracks on this disc build and build to what you’d expect would be a rockin’ riff and they just don’t come. It feels subdued when it should be rockin’. But this track actually does crossover with that rock riff in the chorus and ends up being pretty damn solid.
  • Artist: Chase Rice
  • Song: “Lonely If You Are”
  • Album: The Album, Part 1
  • Genre: Bro-country
  • Notes: “The Album” doesn’t really show a lot of creativity there, so wasn’t expecting much from this up front but it’s good Bro-country and while I don’t know that creativity really applies in a genre that seems to simply recreate the same songs over and over again, it’s still a fun genre at that. I know tons of people that hate this style but I’ll take this pop-country crossover stuff every day of the week. Not ashamed to admit it. Used to be. No longer give a shit if it’s not cool to do so. Hat to the back, Coors light in hand. Do it.
  • Artist: Wire
  • Song: “Unrepentant”
  • Album: Mind Hive
  • Genre: Post-Punk
  • Notes: Including this here because it’s an interesting song from a classic post-punk group. But honestly, I no longer “get” Wire. Wire ceased being a go-to post-punk band decades ago and this certainly doesn’t sound like an album that anyone but Wire die-hards will love but this track caught me.
  • Artist: Annihilator
  • Song: “I Am Warfare”
  • Album: Ballistic / Sadistic
  • Genre: Thrash Metal
  • Notes: I used to be a big fan of Annihilator – I mean Jeff Waters is a great guitarist and has usually stayed true to a pretty traditional thrash sound in his music. Over the years though, his lyric writing has got a bit silly and creating what boils down to the same album over-and-over again has gotten old. This album sounds just like a Annihilator record musically but lyrically there’s something a little less lame about this album than the last few and thus, he’s created the best Annihilator record in a long while. If you like a traditional thrash sound, you can do much worse than this.
  • Artist: Thy Catafalque
  • Song: “A valóság kazamatái”
  • Album: Naiv
  • Genre: Avant-garde Metal
  • Notes: One man metal band, Tamás Kátai, has made some fantastic albums over the year and this is no exception. This track is from his 9th full length and blends everything that’s great about him. Heavy riffs, beautiful strings, psychedelic keyboards and weird atmosphere for effect. The album, but especially this song, pulls you in so many different directions that it’s jolting. In a good way, I swear.
  • Artist: Higher Power
  • Song: “Shedding Skin”
  • Album: 27 Miles Underwater
  • Genre: Melodic Hardcore
  • Notes: In looking these guys up, they are supposedly part of the “New Wave of British Hardcore” which honestly, I didn’t know was even a thing. But then again, I’m not really into much hardcore, so maybe I shouldn’t have expected to know. The album is pretty much what you’d expect from Melodic Hardcore. Some songs that fall more towards the Hardcore punk side, some that are very melodic and some like this one that might even have a tinge of nu-metal in it. I’m surprised I like it but I do – a lot.
  • Artist: Revolution Saints
  • Song: “Coming Home”
  • Album: Rise
  • Genre: 80’s AOR
  • Notes: Dude! Jack Blades of Night Ranger, Deen Castronovo of Journey and Doug Aldrich of Whitesnake and Dio. I mean, fuck yeah. It amazes me every single time I hear a record like this that sounds straight out of 1985 and yet these guys are writing new tracks. And it’s all been done – every riff and every cheesy lyrics. But damn if I ain’t hooked.
  • Artist: Tauren Wells
  • Song: “Citizen of Heaven”
  • Album: Citizen of Heaven
  • Genre: Christian Pop/R&B
  • Notes: Christian pop music is something I know virtually nothing about. I usually shy away from these records at all cost but since I’m listening to all new releases that show up in my stream, well, this was there. And the first two tracks caught me. The album is a mix of pop and R&B and frankly, I didn’t even realize it was a Christian record until the 3rd track was an excerpt from an actual sermon. But the first two tracks on this disc are like vintage boy band pop music just without the 5-man formula. We have one of those progressive non-denominational churches near my home, where there’s a full band and they play pop and rock songs including covers of rock bands and this record is pretty much that without the congregation.
  • Artist: Hanne Boel
  • Song: “Between Dark & Daylight”
  • Album: Between Dark & Daylight
  • Genre: Jazz/Pop/Rock
  • Notes: This is the first I’ve heard of Boel, though apparently she’s huge in her native Denmark. Wikipedia lists her as a pop, jazz, gospel and rock singer that’s been releasing albums since the early 80s. I obviously can’t vouch for any of her other work but this seems to be a jazz influenced record but contains mostly mid-tempo, well crafted pop songs.

The Rabbit Hole, Vol. 3

The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.

What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.

So, to begin:

It’s beginning as an emo rabbit hole. I really wanted to go back and listen to Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and see how well it’s held up, so that’s my starting point. Razorblades have been locked up.

  • Jimmy Eat World – Clarity

If you were ever into Emo, then I feel you almost have to like Clarity. It’s the last pure Emo disc that I think Jimmy Eat World ever did and is one of the best all time in the genre. If there’s a perfect emo record, I haven’t heard it, but this is close. Bleed American is the better record in Jimmy Eat World’s catalog but the rock nature of that record took a bit of the emo edge off (IMO). However, Clarity was very overlooked back in the day. I remember playing the shit out of this at WTSR when I was a DJ – specifically “Lucky Denver Mint” and “For Me This is Heaven” but especially the former which still holds up well today and to me is the best song ever made within the Emo genre. This and their previous record were on Capitol which didn’t do a great job promoting this record and/or signed them a bit too early before the genre had really formed as when they moved to Dreamworks for Bleed American, they blew up.

I’d like to think that “Lucky Denver Mint” could have been a huge hit if the video was even remotely good. Check out this piece of shit below, in an era where MTV made bands.

  • Dashboard Confessional – The Places You Have Come To Fear the Most

Holy shit, this was hard to listen to. Lead singer Chris Carrabba is the poster child for Emo music and Dashboard Confessional is the first band I think of when the genre is mentioned. I was never in the scene, so I could be totally wrong but when I think Emo, I think of teens that hate life so bad that they can’t get out of bed. I really don’t think I’m that far off, though I’m sure that doesn’t represent everyone. And Emo was supposed to be relatable because it talked about the agony and despair that you were feeling when you listened to it. I get that this was supposed to be the comfort for the people immersed in the culture and probably helped a lot of people through hard times. But as someone that was happy at this point in my life, Carrabba comes across to me as a whiny little oh-wow-is-me screamer. Just the painful screaming (and I mean screaming) to end the final track, “This Bitter Pill” is off-putting to me. It’s bright and sunny today and yet this record brought me down, down, down. Maybe you had to live it to understand.

“This Bitter Pill”
  • Matchbook Romance – Stories and Alibis

Funny to see this on Epitaph but Emo seemed to branch out a bit form post-hardcore at some point and the louder emo bands seem to have a slight element of punk now and again, so I guess it makes sense to an extent – or Epitaph just had to cash in on the craze.

So the algorithm moved me from Dashboard Confessional to Matchbook Romance. Again, having never been into the sound, I had no idea who these guys were. The ever-so-fun Wikipedia tells me that they had a total of two records, this being their first. And this is a paint-by-numbers version of what Emo rock is to me. Pained screams, the world sucks, I suck and man, nothing is going right. Check out “The Greatest Fall” for all of that rolled up into one.

“The Greatest Fall”
  • Brand New – Deja Entendu

I had a few choices from Tidal to go to next but I chose Brand New because I had heard of them before and might have even listened to this album in the past. After getting through this, I knew more songs than I would have expected to, so I must have popped it in at some point in time. I figured this might be the best chance moving forward in this rabbit hole, of actually liking one of these albums. And I was sort of right. There are moments like “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis” that I hate but ones like “Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” which are pretty damn cool. This is a combo of alt rock and Emo, leaning more to the emo side, especially on the ballads. This also marks the first disc in this post that has what I like to call “Fall Out Boy titles.” You know, 10 word titles that really don’t pertain to the song but might be kind of clever in a dad joke kind of way, titles. I know, I know – that didn’t start with Fall Out Boy but over the years I can’t think of a bigger band that has had such ridiculous titles and there a lot of branches of Emo that have that as well.

“Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”
  • Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree

Shit, might as well hit Fall Out Boy since they are connected to literally every band in here according to Tidal. I’m actually a casual Fall Out Boy fan and by casual, I mean I like their recent material and their greatest hits discs are pretty fantastic. It wasn’t like I always liked them though. I very much thought they were pretentious douchebags with their stupid ass titles like the opening track, “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of this Song.” But then I realized that I also might be a douchebag (but not pretentious motherfucker…) and came to the realization that they are actually a pretty fun band. It never made me go back and listen to their earliest records, like this one, but I don’t actively turn the radio off when I hear them now. So that’s something.

The album itself isn’t terrible but isn’t great either but I have a new appreciation for the singles at least, since I’ve stopped being full of myself and just started enjoying music. The hardest part for me is actually telling you what songs I liked since only the singles like “Dance, Dance” and “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” actually have the title in the song. So I’d have to go back and listen to see if I liked “I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)” or “I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me.” And really, I’m not listening twice. I’ll stick with the newer stuff.

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down”
  • Simple Plan – No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls

I think with that, I’m likely firmly out of the emo and now into the 2000’s pop-punk bands and I’m not sure this works for me. I was talking about this sound the other week with a buddy and was just commenting how dated it is. And this album is totally dated to the early 2000s. I thought I had listened to this album in the past but I don’t recognize anything but the singles “Addicted” and “Perfect.” I suppose back in 2002, I could have listened to this and enjoyed it but it seems like really generic and juvenile to me now. Damn it, I sound old, don’t I?

“Perfect”
  • Biffy Clyro – The Vertigo of Bliss

Up until now, I had only heard the name Biffy Clyro but never any of their music. Now that I have, I have no idea how the algorithm of “Similar Bands” to Simple Plan got me here. I see places where they are labeled as post hardcore, so maybe that’s it. Maybe I just picked the wrong album but if everything sounds like this – which is hard to describe really – some blend of avant-garde alt-rock, maybe a bit of post-hardcore, maybe a bit of noise rock, maybe a slight pop-punk feel once in a while – then the connection is lost on me. Every now and then I got a bit of a Jawbox feel or maybe a Local H vibe but then they go promptly in a different direction. I like unique bands and this seems like the type that I might go back to and listen to the other records to see what they’re about – but in this context, I just wasn’t feeling it. In looking at the singles from this record, I see the first one was called “Toys Toys Toys Choke, Toys Toys Toys.” Not sure how in the world anyone thought that would be the title of a hit song but you know, “MMM MMM MMM MMM” became a hit, so I guess you never know. Unfortunately, while this makes for a short rabbit hole, this was the derailer for me. So rabbit hole #3 stops here.

“Toys Toys Toys Choke, Toys Toys Toys”