Friday, December 24, 2010

Taking over bars and holding nights for hipsters

2010 was not the finest year for new music, but certainly there were a few releases that caught my attention. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the overtly power-poppy Blood/Candy from The Posies. Over the years they have mastered the Hollies/Byrds jangle-pop sound, layered with some grunge and hard rock. But this latest release is a new direction, beautifully produced and positively filled to the brim with hooks. Over the last twenty years or so they have produced some of my favorite recordings of that period. So it is high praise from me to say that this is quickly becoming my favorite Posies release. Guest spots from Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers) and Lisa Lobsinger only enhance the broadening of musical styles to be found here.

She's Coming Down Again is a power pop masterpiece with one of the most stupdenous choruses in many a year. But underneath the layers of harmonies, fuzzed-out guitars, and uber-awesome keyboard work is one extremely sad drug parable. Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer (both born in the very late 60s) have perfected the art of power pop. One hopes they continue on for many years to come.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Life is kinda groovy in the gutter

For those who consider the Fifth Dimension to be corny or square, you can skip this entry entirely. I for one am a unabashed fan. Their stellar harmonies and pop/soul hooks of the late sixties are essential listening for me a decade into the 21st century.

Jimmy Web wrote all but one song on their 1967 Magic Garden LP, just as he was breaking up with his longtime girlfriend Susan. Her name pops up frequently in the lyrics. A true pop/psych song cycle, there are introductions and connecting pieces between the plethora of fantastic songs. The turmoil of the breakup is reflected by the increasingly depressing song subjects. In Dream/Pax/Nepenthe the singer refers to "cobweb shadows all over her face like lacquered lace", as if some long buried memory. In the heartbreaking The Worst That Could Happen he imagines her marrying another.

The true test of real "ear candy" is a song that hooks me within five seconds. The dense syncopated piano cluster chords that open Paper Cup are absolutely smile-inducing for me. Even in my worst mood this song will perk up my spirit. Quite the enigma considering that the lyrics are one supreme downer. "And everyone says I'm quite insane, and someday I'll be going down the drain. I know they're right, but I don't care. I feel no pain."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't Leave Me Waiting Here

From the ashes of the Get Back recording sessions in 1969, who would have guessed that the most controversial reworking for the Let It Be LP would be Paul's simple yet emotionally powerful Long And Winding Road? Paul's legal case to end The Beatles listed Phil Spector's tinkering with this song as one of six reasons for the dissolution. On most counts I prefer the Naked versions of the Let It Be songs, but in this one case I have to disagree strongly with Mr. McCartney. Perhaps this is due to my memories of this song on the radio back in 1970, released just after the world learned that The Beatles were no more. The tugging of Richard Hewson's mid-song string arrangement just works for me on so many levels. When I listen to the untouched version I still hear the strings deep in my head. Paul's little ode to a broken heart begging to be let back in is perhaps his most touching late Beatle's moment, and one of the few times he was given free reign to bare his soul.