Sunday, July 26, 2015

What I'm Listening To [Summer 2015]

It's been a while, so I thought I'd make a post with a sampling of some tunes I've been jamming to lately.

 First some housekeeping though, I went through all the old posts and replaced playlists that I could remember from different services with Spotify playlists. I figured this probably is better since most people are using Spotify nowadays, and listens actually support the artists, even if it is a minuscule amount.

 Anyways here's the playlist and a little blurb about each artist/track:

Jen Wood - Fell In Love
Found this singer/songwriter on Bandcamp sort of randomly. I liked it, so I bought it. Just some nice simple piano based pop with some electronic backing. She kind of reminds me of Vanessa Carlton little bit. Plus some of the electronic bits on her album are played by using Game Boy Chiptunes!

Modern Baseball - Your Graduation
Discovered this band through some other artists I like. Very different sound, but still kind of pop-punk-ish. It's a little strange at first, but the chorus is so catchy it gets a lot better with every listen. Modern Baseball actually split vocal duties between their guitar players, but this song features their drummer in the second verse. These guys are part of the resurgent DIY scene and really starting to gain some traction.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me
I've been known to like a pop song or two, my wife shared this song with me and I instantly fell in love love it. I actually like all of the new Carly Rae Jepsen out. Much like this song, it's very 80's inspired with the electronic bits. Oh yeah, and it's catchy. I'm interested to hear the whole album because the four tracks release so far have been awesome.

The Wonder Years - Cardinals
I've probably got three or four posts in mind for this this band alone since I really dug into them earlier this year. The Wonder Years wrote some really emotionally charge pop-punk, often with very personal and sometimes brutally honest lyrics. This song is no-exception with the chorus "So if you call me back or let me in, I swear I'll never let you down again". It's kind of heavy in that regard. Gives me all the feels. This is from their upcoming album No Closer To Heaven coming out in September.

Queen - Scandal
I've been reading the "Queen Chronology" which is sort of a year by year look at Queen was doing as a band. Since I just finished the 80's I went back and listened to 1989's The Miracle given that Queen recorded a lot of material for this album in 1987 and 1988. I think Scandal is one of the more overlooked tracks on the album and definitely a great deep cut. It's pretty representative of what was going on in the band at the time. What with the rumors about Freddie's illness and Brain and Roger's marital problems, I think this is one of the more personal songs for the entire band as a whole that they've ever written.

Allison Weiss - Nothing Left
One of my new favorite artists,Allison Weiss, is coming to town in few weeks, so I went back through her discography to get myself psyched. This is one of my favorite tracks of hers. It's so catchy and it kind of gets you by surprise. By the time I get to "stand closer, get nervous" I'm hooked. The outro is so great too, just building and build and riding out the tune to it's full effect. great stuff.

Friday, January 2, 2015


In November Queen released a new compilation Forever which included three “new” songs (more on why I used quotations later). This marked the first time since 1995’s Made in Heaven that Queen had released new material containing original vocals from Freddie Mercury. It also marked the release of one the legendary tracks featuring Michael Jackson. I will dissect the compilation in a later post, but I first would like to express some thoughts on the three new tracks on Forever. You can listen to any of these tracks with the Spotify link at the bottom of this post.

Let Me In Your Heart Again
                This song, featuring all four original members (including John Deacon who no longer tours or records with the band) apparently already existed in the archives in the form we hear it in here. Brian calls it “a real moment between the four of us in the studio” which makes me think it might have been a later live take. The song definitely has a bit of a jam vibe, it’s a little less polished and the backing track, although not sloppy by any means, sounds a lot looser overall. Freddie’s vocal performance is pretty stellar and loose, which is what I think really makes this the treat that it is. This song would've definitely fit on 1984’s The Works, for which it was originally recorded, I’m guessing that It’s A Hard Life made the cut instead.
                Brian May did re-record this track with his wife Anita Dobson on vocals, which led people to complain that this wasn't really “new” song. Personally I have not heard that version and I do not care to. This was brand new to my ears, and I think that it’s the strongest of the three new tracks on the Forever compilation.

Love Kills (The Ballad)
Here’s where the term “new” becomes subjective for me. Love Kills was originally released as a Freddie Mercury solo track for Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 Metropolis soundtrack in which Moroder used contemporary music to score the classic silent film. Now to be fair, this did begin life as a Queen track, once again the sessions for 1984's The Works. It’s pretty much understood that this being Freddie’s first solo effort, he actually had the band help record the backing track as he fleshed out the song, even though none of their work made it through to the final produced version.
                From what I could gather from the liner notes and a few other sources, this is essentially Freddie’s vocal, with a brand new re-worked backing track, that also includes “Additional Electric Guitar” by John Deacon, presumably from the original backing track used when Mercury was fleshing out the song with the band. Get all that? As confusing as it sounds, I do appreciate that John Deacon is still present on this song, therefore retaining its authenticity as an original Queen track.
                Anyway, this song has been remixed and reworked several times over from its original disco/dance sound. This version does retain some of those elements in the breakdown, but it’s mostly an acoustic re-working. That being said, it takes a few listens to get used to, and to vocal performance isn't really suited to the ballad arrangement. I still prefer the original, but it does make an enjoyable listen, and the song and vocal performance itself is strong enough that the backing track doesn't detract from the original spirit of the song.

There Must Be More to Life than This (featuring Michael Jackson) (William Orbit Mix)
                  Here we have another track that was eventually released as a Freddie Mercury solo track on his 1985 Mr. Bad Guy solo album. Once again this started life as a Queen track during the sessions for 1982’s Hot Space and was later revisited during the sessions’ for The Works, when, who else, but Michael Jackson dropped by the studio.  There are three or four tracks that he lent some vocals to; a quick Google can yield bootlegs recording of the others. Keeping with the theme, this track again features all four original members providing backing track.
                I know Brian said that he was impressed with how modern software like ProTools was able to take bits and pieces of the limited vocals they had from Michael Jackson and Freddie to construct a full song over the backing track. I don’t know if I completely agree. I’m not so disappointed that they released another version  of a song I've already heard, I think I’m more disappointed that it sounds exactly like what it is: pieced together. Freddie’s vocal performance is much better on his solo version and Michael Jackson’s vocals don’t sound “complete”. It’s also very, very over-produced, so much so that it’s distracting. I feel like this might have been an intentional misdirect to account for the lack of source material. Don’t get me wrong it’s an interesting listen, but I think a “demo” version would've made a much more proper and satisfying release, rather than trying to polish up a bits and pieces.   

Overall I feel the release of these three songs was a little anti-climactic. According to Brian, these were the only tracks within the archives that were far enough along to warrant proper release. Let Me in Your Heart Again was amazing, but given what the end product was on There Must Be More to Life than This, that news is rather disheartening. I’m not sure I’d like future generations to see Queen, a band that strived for perfection so much that it’s amazing they finished anything, like that. I’m still glad these songs saw release, unlike most people I don’t think they were necessarily “following the money” (they have plenty of that), I think they just wanted a vehicle to showcase something that fans could call new and keep the Queen name alive. Maybe it’s better we just remain happy with what we do have rather than yearning for what we can’t.