I don’t know if this album falls under “guilty pleasures” or what, but in 2007 when I first stumbled on to it, Awake from Secondhand Serenade had me hooked. I’m a sucker for a guitar and someone who actually has some vocal talent. It happens so rarely that someone with talent shows up in the music industry, but then when I read more about the album and was even more impressed.
John Vesely was pretty much a one man show, with vocals and instrumentals by John Vesely. He used multi-tracking to make it sound like there were more voices and instruments. When on tour (I got to see him in Lancaster in 2008), he would bring a band with them, but only used them for some of the songs from the 2008 album, and when singing more tracks from the 2007 album Awake they left the stage and the audience filled in the other voices.
I won’t even get in to lyrics and music, I think I’ve already explained quite a bit. Secondhand Serenade saw some fame when the 2nd album released, but I’ve genuinely enjoyed awake Awake, and I think you will, too!
Dr. Dog has a wonderfully old fashioned sound, that only a few indie bands have capitalized on. Falling somewhere between The Beatles and Modest Mouse, Dr. Dog has had a long journey to find their slice of fame, and has kept their sound fairly consistent. When I first learned of them, Fate was just about to be released and they had a sound that was refreshing to my ears.
Their 2008 album, “Fate,” certainly has multiple tracks with religious overtones. The lyrics don’t shy away from the natural inner conflict one might have, questioning one’s faith. The Ark opens with the line: “God / he called for rain / so I built an ark / but no rain came. / I was ashamed.”
Meanwhile, a few romantic overtones shine through in parts of songs. A track simply titled From opens with one of the sweetest lines a person could ever hope to hear from their lover: “Oh, oh my love / don’t you leave me / ’cause I don’t want to learn how to die / oh, oh my love.”
The songs feature beautiful guitar strumming, electric and accoustic, some calming bass and drum work, and piano playing that will put your mind at ease. Although a few tracks have a modern rock sound, the indie-folk sound is undeniably present, and will draw you deeper and deeper in to Dr. Dog’s “Fate” album. Listen to it and let me know if you’ll be listening to it over and over, as I have.
Jonny Fritz, AKA Jonny Corndawg, is a country singer who knows that Nashville sound as well as anybody, but he also knows how to play songs that appeal to more and more people. He doesn’t take the “hard right” stance that a lot of country singers do, and doesn’t sing about how great America is and how great it is to swill beer all day. In fact, in his song Exercise, from a previous album, the chorus includes “understand that immigrants have the hardest lives.”
The opening track to 2011’s Down on the Bikini Line album is Shaved Like A Razor. It was the first song I had ever heard from Jonny Corndawg, and I was immediately hooked by a classic barn-dance type song with great guitar solos, fantastic fiddle playing, and a kind-hearted twang in Jonny’s voice. Played on a local radio station here in Rochester, NY, they announced that later that night the band would be playing in town. Off I went to see Jonny and company at a local venue. I was not disappointed. The band is down to earth, and Jonny really seems to enjoy what he does. They literally travel the country on their tour, crashing wherever they can after each show, playing to small crowds and recognizing their fans who have seen them more than once.
Jonny isn’t afaid to shine the spotlight on the occasional absurdity of country music, as in the track When a Ford Man Turns to Chevy, as the line immediately following the title line continues with “an angel gets it’s wings, and the babies they won’t never cry no more.” Undercover Dad is a touching song that Jonny sings about wanting to get to know his child better, and the lessons he has learned about parenting by being out on the road seeing younger crowds at shows every night, learning what he can expect to have to face someday.
If Amazon isn’t for you, you can get Down on the Bikini Line and other albums direct from the band’s Bandcamp site, so go get your fix!
Releasing tomorrow, Purity Ring’s “Shrines” is a beautifully crafted psychadellic trip through a musical soundscape. Much like many of the recent electronica type indie bands of late, you’ll be hard pressed to find the occasional “real instrument” on the album, but that won’t make it any less enjoyable.
If you’re one of the many millions who has been enjoying the vocal stylings from Gotye’s Somebody that I used to know, lately, then you are going to enjoy the haunting ethereal voice of Megan James. Corin Roddick pops in part way through the album with a voice inspired by contemporary hip-hop artists, whch acts as an enjoyable contrast to the ghost-like voice of James.
And if you’re not keen on preordering something you’ve never heard before, you’re in luck. NPR actually has the whole album available for your preview pleasure. But if you have enjoyed the likes of Neon Indian or Air France over the last few years, Purity Ring will end up on your playlist in the very near future.