Tag Archives: Billy Joel

The Posies: Blood/Candy

Another 2010 Bridesmaid…very good, but missed the Top 25…

The Posies have been around so long and have broken up and reformed so often that it’s probably bad form to call Blood/Candy a comeback album. Isn’t that what we were supposed to call Every Kind of Light? But with their solo and Big Star efforts now put aside, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer decided to revisit their oldest muse – each other – and reanimate a collaboration that has served them since they were teenagers. Camping out in the studio to live and breathe the music, the core of Blood/Candy was created in ten days and then tinkered with via various studios, diverse instrumentation and vocal collaborators (Kay Hanley, Hugh Cornwell).

The results, although not quite derivative, are that many of the songs have a familiarity that can’t be avoided when a band’s songwriters have such widespread collaborations. The structure of the fragmented “Licenses To Hide”, oddly enough, sounds like a Billy Joel epic from The Stranger, albeit sung by angels. And while it is not a well-known song, those who know The Odds’ “Love of Minds” will do a spit-take upon hearing the refrain and rhythm of “Cleopatra Street”.

Video: “For The Ashes

“For The Ashes” lets them frame the verses in Crosby/Nash harmonies before morphing into spacey falsettos, just as “Accidental Architecture” uses those same vocal icons to launch a wordy, jazzy melody into an infectious chorus. And staying on Nash point, the boys had to be listening to old Hollies records before penning the album’s best hook in “She’s Coming Down Again”. Likewise, Beach Boys fans will no doubt be struck by the vocal coda of “Enewetak”.

The songwriting is strong, and as one would expect, the vocals and harmonies are exquisite; both Stringfellow and Auer are in top form. There will be those who still point at Dear 23 or Frosting On The Beater as the apex of their career, but slotting this one in close proximity would not be a mistake. Whether or not this is a cohesive effort from a newly focused band or a collection of tracks assembled for the occasional statement, Blood/Candy is – as the title suggests – a showcase for both their delicate fragility and their powerful pop presence.

***

This review was originally printed in Bucketful of Brains.

The Posies on MySpace

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Under The Radar: Pseudonym

A rose by any other name is…well, whatever that other name is.

Paul Desjarlais understands the “sounds like” game, it’s a necessary tool to try to describe an aural experience with the written word. He describes his sound as a mix of Elvis Costello, David Bowie, XTC, Beatles, Big Star, Pixies, Matthew Sweet, Flaming Lips, mid-60’s top 40, late-60’s psychedelia, early 70’s pop, late-70’s punk rock…and Billy Joel.

I don’t know if it’s that widely accessible, but it is worth a listen. Here’s an old review…

Maybe Paul Desjarlais got tired of people butchering his last name, or maybe he’s a closet PIL fan. Regardless, Pseudonym’s Pig Tail World is an intriguing record full of certified indie pop and obtuse lyrics. “Accident Prone” won me over immediately with layers of great vocals and a huge hook; it wasn’t until I paid closer attention to the lyrics that I realized what a dark song it really is. Ditto “Kill Me In The Rain” (although John Gage wrote the words here, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart from Paul’s lyrics).

Although he sometimes gets close to what one might consider a mainstream pop song, the lyrics usually give it away. Consider “Ray Gun”, which could fit easily on any Lets Active record, and even features one of the few guitar solos on the album. “Ice And Snow” is presented as sparse but bouncy pop, and later, as the hidden track, in a fuller, more Brian Wilson-ish version. “Crashing” is one of my favorites; I enjoy the way he slaps the words against the grain of the melody to challenge the song’s pulse, yet effortlessly draws it all together in the chorus before unfurling it again.

And he does play with you a little; “Half Eyes” is a seventy-nine second track recorded backwards, and “Broccoli Blues” cannot be taken seriously when “tennis shoes” and the song’s title anchor the rhyme of a verse. Recorded “in a living room, an attic and a basement“, Pig Tail World may not be for every casual listener but will bring great pleasure with those for a taste for something a little different.

Hear some clips from Pig Tail World at CD BABY

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New Album! Bobby Emmett

My #5 album from 2009

I’ll forgive you if you think you somehow slipped a Raspberries album in your player when the familiar staccato power chords come blasting out of your speakers on the opening track; I sure did. But quickly the bridge will reassure you that this is a different journey…and then the high octave harmony vocals sell the chorus, and the Todd-like guitar solo stutters and rips across the melodic ribbon…and your jaw, like mine, has dropped.

Bobby Emmett – you know him from The Sights – has stitched together a Frankenstein monster of a record that splashes the DNA of just about every powerpop touchstone you can name into an infectious, joyous blast. That he recorded it in a bedroom and played and sang the vast majority of it himself just makes it that much more amazing. Many albums start strong, an obvious single in the leadoff slot, but four, five tracks in you will find yourself hard pressed to settle upon a favorite.

“Still Wanna Be With You” borrows a line from “1-2-3 Red Light” for the chorus but dunks it into a modern framework not unlike Silver Sun or Farrah (and that vocal flourish at the end is spine-tingling). Sure, the haunted vocal in “Moving Ahn” suggests John Lennon, and the spelling of the song title correctly suggests a mix of Billy Joel and Big Star (think Chris Bell singing “Moving Out”) before the coda drifts into a mash-up of Pink Floyd‘s “Great Gig In The Sky” with “I Want You” (either The Beatles or the Elvis Costello song – your pick).

I say all this with reverence and a straight face. There are enough copycat bands of all genres exhuming the work of their predecessors and passing it off as their own sound, but Emmett has assembled a ten-track killer of a solo album here. Whether it’s the soulful mid-tempo “November” (a hipper “Everything I Own”), the sweet Harrison slide of “Never Waited So Long”, the psychedelic “Love Is Real” or the straight-ahead pop majesty of “Broken Hearted” and “Queen of Hearts”, Emmett is all hooks and harmonies and ear candy. Learning Love is a joyous and stunning effort. 

This review is from the brand spanking new issue of Bucketfull of Brains. Use the link on their page and sign up for a sweet three issue subscription.

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