Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hellogoodbye’s New Stuff

Hey ya’ll who love to get free stuff! Hellogoodbye is offering their latest two-song-and-one-video release free of charge to everyone who joins their email list. This release is called When We First Met. You can get it by going to the band's homepage or MySpace.

I haven’t really listened to Hellogoodbye very much. Maybe I should’ve. Well, there was indeed a time when I was quite hooked on their single Baby It’s Fact. Later I saw the music video and was very charmed… I also enjoyed Here In Your Arms. Strangely, it was a small radio hit in Finland and therefore I almost never really heard it. I don’t listen to the radio. Except Groove FM for soul and disco hits of the past decades.

When We First Met sounds nice – upbeat and melancholic at the same time. Not Ever Coming Home balances the song couple with a more peaceful feel. Melancholy is also present in that song.

The video for When We First Met is very entertaining. Recommended especially for fans of different hairstyles..

When We First Met music video (YouTube)
Hellogoodbye - Official website
Hellogoodbye on MySpace

Friday, October 16, 2009

Farrah & New Album

Farrah, a brilliant UK powerpop quartet, have finished and released a new album. It’s their fourth, a self-titled album, and so far it has only been released in Japan. A release for western citizens will follow later this year. I’ve been following the band’s activity but obviously haven’t been able to keep myself completely up-to-date as the Japanese release came out in July…

This band has a nice back catalog. Especially their first album is superb but I will mention some things about the second and third album as well. Go ahead and comment if you have more experience on the subject.

Moustache (2001)
Farrah’s debut album is a great collection of songs, to me a true classic. The album came out as god knows how many different versions, different song lists and even different album covers and colors. Anyway, the songs are magnificent, the sounds are great, the sounds (I love those percussions) are absolutely cheerful. And then there is of course Jez Ashurst’s voice… To cut a long story short, to me his voice is highly addictive as it is one of those incredibly boyish, sweet, bubblegummy powerpop voices. He is not my #1 favourite but he is definitely one of the best.

The album isn’t addictive just because of Jez, however - the songs are addictive. I will always remember Tired of Apologizing, a song that deals with relationship hardships of with such delightful peacefulness that it actually turns negative things into good. Terry is another song about a certain type of hardships. The song is really nice, catchy, sympathetic, and well... sort of psychedelic. There is also a Rubinoos cover of I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, as well as a lovely ballad in Superman theme, Lois Lane. Living for the Weekend and Seventies Superstar are very charming, those songs I also tend to listen to when it's summer and the sun is shining, and even if it's not shining. Seriously, everything on this album is awesome! Some people might think there is a filler or two here but I wouldn’t do that. I like all the songs equally much. Great sounds, great songs, cool arrangements - indeed, a classic.

Me Too (2003)
The band’s sophomore effort is not quite as coherent as the first one was but it’s still very good. It begins with a fabulous song couple, Tongue Tied (check out the video) and Daytime TV. These songs reveal more about Jez’s geeky vocalist persona. I never get tired of the wonderfully silly drum sound of Daytime TV… A drum sound must be good if it brings a smile to the listener's face every time the song starts. This album also contains a cover song, this time it’s Joe Jackson’s It’s Different for Girls – sweet, really sweet. As a whole, Me Too is another collection of charming, slightly melancholic powerpop songs. Wake up is one of my favourites, as well as The Last Word.

Cut Out And Keep (2007)
This is also a nice album. It remains as the most distant of Farrah's albums to me, but the reason is simply that I still haven’t found the time to listen to everything on it properly. On the album there are of course again some really sweet tracks. It is impossible not to enjoy the Weezer-ish Dumb Dumb Ditty (can be heard on MySpace), and No Reason Why that has a cool horn arrangement (also on MySpace). A fancy music video was made for Fear of Flying. Check it out if you like, the song is as sweet as power pop can get - typical of Farrah.

Farrah takes care of the PR. The band likes to keep a video diary and they are even on Twitter. When it comes to their new material, it obviously sounds good. However, I’m not entirely convinced yet, so I’ll wait to hear the new album in its entirety. A part of me certainly thinks this band will probably never reach the greatness of Moustache again… Well, I shouldn’t ever say never. We’ll see.

Farrah on MySpace
Farrah on Twitter
Farrah – Official website

From the new album: Can’t Kick the Habit
From Cut Out And Keep: Fear of Flying
From Me Too: Tongue Tied
From Moustache: Terry

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Devoted to Don and Phil

The Everly Brothers rock. I had known about their existence for quite some time but it wasn’t until last summer when I finally started to realize their true greatness. I call it “a personal breakthrough”: that moment, those one or two days of your life when you feel you’ve finally found the essence of a band/artist and suddenly enjoy listening to it more than ever. The artist has become more familiar to you, which enables you to enjoy the music more and more... I found the essence of the Everly Brothers thanks to a release called It’s Everly Time & A Date With The Everly Brothers, a CD that contains the duo’s third and fourth album. The albums were originally released in 1960 and 1961.

These brothers are a perfect answer to anyone (like me) who hungers for sugary 50s/early 60s teen idols – and harmonies! Although the Everlys aren’t regarded primarily as teen idols, almost everyone knows that they are probably the most ear-melting male duo ever. Something about them is in fact different from most other harmony singing groups and duos…

The Everly Brother’s roots are in rock’n roll and country music. Therefore many of their songs have a slightly country-tingled rock’n roll feel, and the steel guitar has an effect, too. The Everly Brothers are, as far as I know, probably most famous for gentle and absolutely stunning ballads like All I Have to Do Is Dream. Love songs form a considerate part of the duo’s catalog. The Everlys sing a great deal about girls. As we all know, girls usually lead to either bliss (You Thrill Me (Through and Through); Always It’s You) or misery (Sigh, Cry Almost Die; Love Hurts). While the brothers sing happily about happiness, in the sadder songs they express themselves melancholically but not bitterly. The peacefulness of this music makes it suitable for relaxation, and of course for those moments when you hunger for sweet...

Being one of the most delicious vocal duos ever the Everly Brothers influenced many groups that sang harmony vocals, such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys. The Everly Brothers’ harmonies differ from the usual harmony singing, where the different vocal parts would sound strange if they were separated. However, when listening to the Everly Brothers, you might notice that both Don’s lower and Phil’s higher melody line could stand on their own.

The Everly Brothers had their biggest hits around 1957-1964. During that time they recorded dozens of songs that became Billboard hits. When the British Invasion hit, it became significantly more difficult to reach audiences with traditional American pop. By the end of the 60s the Everly Brothers lost their hitmaker status to Britpop bands and other new phenomena. Don and Phil split in the early 70s and pursued solo careers but were reunited in 1983. More recent years have brought the Everly Brothers various awards, such as Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and introduction to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

When it comes to the musical situation of 21st century… People just don’t make a lot of music like this anymore. Sometimes I feel like I’m 70 years old. None of my friends really listens to this kind of stuff. Can you blame me for enjoying classic, traditional pop songs that focus on melody, songwriting, vocals and vocal harmonies? I guess you can’t. I bet you enjoy the exact same thing, and so would also my friends if they gave the early 60s a proper chance.

The Everly Brothers at YouTube
The Everly Brothers Fan Club - The Beehive

Three Musketenors

I don’t really know any Finnish pop musicians personally. Well, to be honest, my dad used to be a rock star in the 80s but that is another story… During the few years I've been over 18 (and able to get into clubs) I’ve probably seen more than 100 Finnish indie bands play live. The truth is, however, that I don’t know any members of those bands personally, not a single one. The closest contact I have is a second-hand contact. For instance, a friend of mine has a big brother who has played with a couple of bands (which I’ve also seen live).

Today’s topic is my friend’s boyfriend’s band, Wedding Crashers. I heard they chose the name intentionally so that it could be abbreviated “WC”, something that people will remember easily. When it comes to the music, I’ve seen different attributes appear on their MySpace. Once I saw something like “Happy hardcore / Pop” which I though was pretty fun… The last time I checked they described themselves as “Rock / Powerpop / Surf”.

In fact, I saw Wedding Crashers live in Tampere about 1,5 months ago. I liked the gig a lot. I remember the guys were really sympathetic, played well, and had fun stuff to tell between the songs. The band was happy, everyone was happy… That is the way to do it - this miserable, dark country needs more positivity, positive attitude! Wedding Crashers played catchy pop/rock tunes as well as more folky, acoustic material. One of the most memorable things was that they actually ended the gig with a Beatles cover, Please Please Me. I think it was the first time ever I saw a Beatles song played live. What is wrong with this country?..

Go ahead and check out this band. According to my source (the friend I mentioned), the guys wanted to perfect their music before making it public as they intend to be the next Oasis. That is what I call ambition! Wedding Crashers are unsigned at the moment and I don’t think they’ve released much music yet but they’ve been successful in band contests. Last summer they even got to play at Provinssirock, one of the most legendary summer rock festivals in Finland. I’m looking forward to hearing more of their stuff. The guys have talent, they simply have to put it on record.

Wedding Crashers at MySpace
Wedding Crashers Facebook fan page

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Doo Wop, Baroque, Girls - and More Girls

It was about time that I got familiar with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons! Being a huge Beach Boys fan, this was, of course, a very natural thing to happen to me. Still, it wasn’t automatic, I think. Or maybe it was. Frankie Valli and his magnificent harmony singing friends are in every case a must-hear for all Beach Boys fans. I approached this group by listening to Anthology: Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons (thanks to Tampere City Library).

Everyone knows there was some form of a rivalry between the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons. Both bands became popular at the same time, around year 1962 and performed music that was stylistically quite similar – but not completely similar. While both groups incorporated a great deal of multipart doo wop vocal harmonies and nonsense syllables, Frankie Valli’s group concentrated even more on doo wop. Brian Wilson’s Boys might also be described being more straightforwardly rock’n roll oriented, especially in the early stages of their career. On the other hand, The Four Seasons didn’t sing about surfing or cars, but they surely shared one interest with the Beach Boys: girls. The Four Seasons, who were originally from Newark, New Jersey, released their first album in 1962 (as did The Beach Boys), and their first hit song was Sherry.

After a small getting used to period I found myself enjoying The Four Seasons very, very much. Frankie Valli is of course both similar to and different from Brian Wilson. Both have performed absolutely lovely falsetto vocals but their singing style is somewhat different in lower areas. While Brian rarely used his voice to anything else but pure prettiness in the 60s, Frankie Valli wasn’t afraid to show different aspects of his voice. Frankie Valli resembles Graham Nash a lot, and (perhaps a bit confusingly) has more rock’n roll angst in his voice and singing style than Brian Wilson.

The songs… Ronnie! I love, love, love that tune! Marlena, Dawn (Go Away), and Rag Doll are not much less excellent - not to mention Silence Is Golden, a song of which The Tremeloes made a hit. The Four Seasons’ most obvious bubblegum connection is Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye), a major hit for Bay City Rollers in the 70s. I give Four Seasons extra points for that one but the absolutely bubblegummy BCR version, in my opinion, is more enjoyable. I know, I’m totally blinded and enchanted by bubblegum and bubblegummyness... I can’t help it, bubblegum is sticky (=impossible to give up).

Back to the Four Seasons.. Save It For Me is already beginning to sound very sophisticated, á la The Association, and Today!/Summer Days (And Summer Nights) Beach Boys. Other lovely hit songs from the mid-60s include Girl Come Running, Let's Hang On!, Working My Way Back to You, Opus 17 (Don't You Worry 'bout Me), I’ve Got You Under My Skin, C’mon Marianne… The list is almost endless. A special case is Can't Take My Eyes off You, a magnificently superb song that was released as a Frankie Valli solo single in 1967. The song is ear-melting, and I love playing it myself too.

The Four Seasons survived pretty well in the middle of the British Invasion and remained as a popular live act. The end of the 60s was however a hard time for the band. Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons signed onto Motown Records and released new material with modest success. In the mid 70s Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (as separate acts) returned to scoring million selling hits. Since then the group has gone through dozens of personnel changes. Their latest North American tour apparently took place as recently as in 2007. Jersey Boys, a musical play about the Four Seasons has been around for years and it has even been taken to Melbourne, Australia. A quick look to YouTube revealed that there is/was even a “Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons Tribute On Ice". Everything really is on ice these days…

Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons are irreplaceable. I’m sure they will always have a place in my heart – there right next to the Beach Boys.

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons at YouTube

Official Frankie Valli Page

The Wonder Child

There is one thing about me that I don’t understand (not that it really is the only thing..). I listen to music and have a music blog. Obviously, you might assume that I also write about the music that I’ve been listening to. But the thing is, I don’t. The problem seems pretty clear. That is why I’m going to do something about it.

I think I’ve always been aware of the existence of Stevie Wonder. Still, it took more than 20 years for me to find out that he is more than just a soul musician: he is in fact a pop music genius and shouldn’t go unnoticed by anyone who has a devotion to pop. A good thing is that he will not go unnoticed by anyone who has ears: Wonder's classic hits are played everywhere. Many of his most wonderful songs however might go past your ears if you don’t dig a little deeper.

Stevie Wonder had his first hit at the age of 13 with Fingertips (Pt. 2). That is just amazing! Stevie was a real wonder child. Since his first hit Wonder has no doubt become an American soul music icon and won amazingly many Grammy Awards. Some of his 60s Motown pop hits included Uptight (Everything’s Alright), I Was Made to Love You (that I had previously only heard performed by the Beach Boys), Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (a song also covered by numerous artists), and For Once in My Life.

During his most commercially successful period in the 80s Wonder scored hits like Happy Birthday, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Part-Time Lover, and Ebony and Ivory (with Paul McCartney). Those songs are obviously nice to hear but there’s more to Stevie than just those songs they play on every adult radio channel. Let’s see.. Never Had a Dream Come True is a real gem. It includes a heavenly melody, violins, happy feel – that’s it, a perfect pop song. Here are some other tracks I enjoyed last summer: I’m Wondering; Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday; If You Really Love Me; Heaven Help Us All...

In 1976 Wonder released Songs in the Key of Life, a double LP that is probably one of his most ambitious creations. I still haven’t paid much attention to it but you can bet on that I will check it out sooner or later… The album contains Sir Duke, a tribute Duke Ellington and several other jazz legends. Songs in the Key of Life was a part of Wonder’s so-called classical period in the 70s – a period that is most definitely worth listening.

When it comes to the vocals, Wonder is one of those, in my opinion, very intriguing guys who don’t seem to go through much of a change during the transition of from childhood to adult age. Wonder doesn’t sound like a child but his voice is still much more boyish and has a higher pitch than, say, Barry White’s voice… That means extremely suitable for pop music and catchy melodies!

To cut a long story short, Mr. Wonder is my first favourite soul music artist. To be honest, he just might stay in that position for quite some time, if not forever! Last summer was (among other things) a soul season for me. I focused on Wonder but also listened to some Four Tops, Supremes, and Otis Redding. Anyway, whatever type of music you prefer, there is no denying the catchiness and undefeatable charm of Stevie Wonder’s music.

Stevie Wonder at YouTube
Official Stevie Wonder website