New Tunes for Adults of a Certain Age

I have reached that point in life where my listening pleasures tend toward what is kindly called “Adult Album Rock.”  Younger musicphiles will probably call my faves “rocking chair noise.”  Nevertheless, I find myself in the position of pushing valiantly ahead toward newer music while trying to hold to the roots of what came before.

SiriusXM, in trying to market music for every taste, genre and generation, has provided my set with The Spectrum.  Broadcast icons from my youth (Mark Goodman, Carol Miller, the late Dave Mack) and younger on-air personalities (Kristine Stone and Jenny Eliscu) play a mixture of progressive rock and old favorites.  The business plan is genius: make the old fogies comfortable while introducing them to new music that they can afford to buy on impulse now that they have the bread.

Works for me.

I spend a lot of time listening to The Spectrum.  Sometimes it seems that the producers are cramming bands down your throat (Mumford and Sons, My Morning Jacket) in an effort to break you down (does anyone recall the payola scandal of the 1950s?).  For, once you get a tune stuck in your head, you may as well just mentally deduct $1.29 from your iTunes account.

Otherwise, my horizons have expanded in a good way.

If you’re not paying attention to new music any longer but would like some recommendations, read on:

The band I’m lovin’ on right now is The Decembrists.  Harmony lovers will be saying to themselves I know this riff from somewhere, while melody lovers can ride away on the catchy lyrics.  History geeks (like me) applaud their efforts to musically recreate historic events, such as the Spanish Civil War and sea battles of note.  Check out Valencia and This Is Why We Fight.

U2 was a spy plane (think Gary Powers).  Another so-named Irish band  is Bell X-1 (think Chuck Yeager).  At first, you think you’re listening to David Byrne in one of his latest incarnations singing to a Vampire Weekend vibe.  But no.  I assure you, this band is derivative solely in a general fashion.  Only this band could pull off an up-tempo love ballad called VelcroThe Great Defector celebrates the blue lights on a runway at night.  You must listen to fully understand.

For a long time, I have admired Iron and Wine, the recording name of Samuel Beam.  His rhythms and words are often very moving.  The Tree by the River is nostalgically sweet but not sickening.  It recalls a wonderful memory of a place where the singer would meet Mary Ann when they were 17.  There’s sort a Beach Boys thing going on in the background.  Somehow it works.

Noah & The Whale are just plain fun.  L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. is a good lesson about what’s important.  And by the end of the tune, you will be spelling along with the lead singer.

Then there are the protest singers.  The Avett Brothers sing an indirect appeal in A Head Full of DoubtFitz & The Trantrums take their pitch direct to 1600 Pennsylvania in Dear Mr. President.  Isn’t it good to know that artists have not fully gone to sleep during the “Change We Can Believe In” years?

Miss Zee Avi

A delightful sound is coming from Malaysian singer, Zee Avi.  Her meteoric career has been supported by groups such as The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Shins and Jack Johnson.  The Book of Morris Johnson is so intriguing.  I’m still trying to figure out the various instruments which form the harmony.  Her voice sounds like songbirds.  I can’t wait to hear more from her.

Give Me Something is a great love tune from a band from Leeds, England called Scars on 45.  The song initially caught my attention with the opening, “I carved your name in a old oak tree.  But the council chopped it down cause it was filled with disease.”  They had me altogether when they sang, “I’ll wear your wedding ring for a lifetime.”

In my opinion, far too few songs are written about America’s second city.  Maybe it’s because L.A. is really the U.S.’s nowhere.  I haven’t met a lot of people who proudly claim allegiance to that town.  Dawes’ hit, Time Spent in Los Angeles features just the right amount of cynicism combined with true feeling.  I’m not sure how, but it’s a love song.

Lost in My Mind is currently stuck in my mind.  Cheers to The Head and the Heart.

Gomez (Creative Session)

I have loved the English Indie band, Gomez, since See the World.  They further intrigued me with Airstream Driver.  Their latest hit is entitled Options.  I so dig it.

Yes, they're geeks. But they rock.

I’m sure all y’all are all over The Black Keys by now.  What?  You haven’t heard them yet.  Walk run to the record store your laptop to listen to songs such as Tighten Up and my next girl.  These guys are wonderfully smart-ass.  And they rock.  I heard them admitting to Terry Gross recently that the inspiration for Howling for You was the opening beats from Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll, Parts One and Two.  Just download already.

I leave you with a selection that my kids would brand “totally random” (whatever that means).  My appreciation for the French language frequently takes me to Sirius’ channel for Rock Québecois, Air Musique.  I love this station.  Anyway, sample anything by a guy named JervaisJ’m’ennuie de toé (I’m so sick of you) is awesome.  On the strength of that comic tune, I downloaded two more songs by the guy.  After listening to them, I’m all, “Shit.  Why didn’t I just buy the album?”  I’m sure you’ve been there.

I hope you found this helpful.  Maybe I’ll do it again sometime when I have fresh music to share.

Listening to anything interesting right now?

— The Major


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