Song of the Day: Welcome Home by Radical Face

Radical Face’s Ben Cooper is a talented and inspired musician from Jacksonville, Florida.  Cooper chose the name Radical Face after seeing these words written on a flyer; he liked the ring to it and the name stuck.  Cooper later found out that the flyer was for a plastic surgeon and the text actually read “Radical Face Lifts.” Cooper is also one-half of Electric President and Iron Orchestra and one third of Mother’s Basement.  Cooper began exploring the arts as a young boy through drawing and painting, and by middle school he was creating short movies with his friends and later, discovered his interest in music.

“Welcome Home” was featured in a Nikon commercial that replicates a montage of sentimental and memorable videos that define people and who they are.  I really like Nikon’s use of this song and the visuals they set to go along with it.  The personal value that is associated with photographs and videos, as crude or professional as they are, captures the essence of “Welcome Home,” which allows this commercial and song to seamlessly mesh together.

Cooper’s style can be deemed as acoustic and alternative rock, although it is difficult to label Radical Face’s style, as it is very dynamic.  “Welcome Home” is song filled with emotion, both lyrically and instrumentally.  You can tell Cooper’s soul is put into this song from the very beginning as the chimes blowing in the wind create a dramatic and ominous effect.  The delicate vocals that are introduced after the short musical overture gently build as the song progresses.  The introduction of the strumming guitar creates a tender dynamic to this song that is repeated in each verse.

The chorus of this song is by far the most intense part, and my favorite.  A crescendo leads to the introduction of a deep, bold piano melody.  Cooper’s lyrics are poetic, which adds to the emotion that this song portrays.  You can tell he is singing about a passionate matter, but it is difficult to completely decipher the situation Cooper is trying to depict through his articulate lyrics.  There are many meanings to “Welcome Home,” and it is left up to the listener to interpret this song as they wish, which is another aspect of this song that makes it so enjoyable to listen to.

 

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Song of the Day: New Slang by The Shins

The Shins are an indie rock band formed in 1996 from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Band members James Mercer, Joe Plummer, Jessica Dodson, Yuuki Matthews, and Richard Swift never fail to create instrumentally rich tracks tied together with expressive and animated lyrics. The many elements The Shins are able to incorporate into their music showcase each member’s musical talent.

The Shins are able to do something with their music that is becoming a rarity these days; they are able to captivate the listener and pull them deep into the song, allowing the listener to develop a personal connection with the music. The enthralling nature of their track, “New Slang,” which came out as a single in 2001 for their debut album, Oh, Inverted World, leaves me in awe every time I listen to it.

“New Slang” holds emotion behind each chord, and vigor behind each lyric. The strong and steady guitar strum that sets this song’s pace evokes a tranquil tone, while the bold and upbeat tambourine spurs a cheerful feeling. I like this song because I find it to be very versatile. It doesn’t have an overbearing sound to it that dictates your mood; instead, you are able to see the elements you want in The Shin’s subtle musical tones.

It is no wonder why The Shins have yet to fade off the music scene. Their delicate approach, deep sound, and musical ability will always be appealing to listeners who enjoy their indie rock foundation and diverse musical talent.

Song of the Day: Night on the Sun by Modest Mouse

There is really nothing quite like old Modest Mouse. The rawness of it is almost overpowering, and some of their newer stuff, while being more refined, seems overproduced and lacks some of the rough almost desperation you hear in some of the early tracks. “Night on the Sun” is the title track of Modest Mouse’s 1999 EP, which was released only in Japan. It’s a lengthy track, over 9 minutes long, but once again Isaac Brock proves his poetic prowess and as all the instruments seem to flow together so perfectly, the resulting instrumental segments are truly enthralling.

Despite a ridiculously expansive discography, Modest Mouse never quite gained the full notoriety they deserved. I’ve heard them compared to The Velvet Underground, as they seem to expand guitar-centric rock music to levels most have never heard of and frankly, most aren’t ready for. Like The Velvet Underground, I think Modest Mouse will come to be appreciated much more in retrospect. The Lonesome Crowded West to me is one of the best and most ambitious albums released in the last 20 years. It represented the band’s breakthrough, a creative masterpiece and was so incredibly diverse. The emotional shift from one song to the next is remarkable as the conveyance of sentiments from assured to susceptible is seamless and as such, breathtaking.”Night on the Sun” was just one of a handful I could have chosen which is a true testament of the depth of Modest Mouse’s arsenal.

Song of the Day: Furr by Blitzen Trapper

Blitzen Trapper is a Portland, Oregon based band comprised of five talented musicians. ”Furr” was one of their two singles from their 2008 album entitled Furr. This was the band’s fourth album, but first album released under the Sub Pop Records label. Blitzen Trapper reached a high point in their career with the release of the album, which earned itself a two-page feature in Rolling Stone, and sat at number thirteen on Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2008 list, while the title track and Song of the Day, “Furr,” was ranked at number four on the magazine’s Best Singles of 2008 list.

Despite the media boom Blitzen Trapper experienced for this track and album, the band started out by self-releasing their first three albums, and Furr really held onto the eclectic personal, alternative style that was heard in those albums. The band’s leader, Eric Early, wrote every song on Furr, infusing the band’s genuine passion for music into each track.

Blitzen Trapper’s strong country and folk style is heard from the very beginning of their track, “Furr.” Early’s defined voice tells a story through his lyrics, as the guitars and harmonica, which comes in around the first chorus, bring his words to life. “Furr” has an upbeat tempo and the swift pace of this song keeps the listener attentive from start to finish. This band’s sound has a very refreshing feel to it; no matter what kind of mood I am in, I can always listen to Blitzen Trapper’s, “Furr.” Take a listen for yourself through the video above, hope you enjoy.

Song of the Day: The Girl by City and Colour

Dallas Green, a Canadian singer-songwriter, goes by the alias City and Colour, which comes from his own name; Dallas being a city, and Green being a color.  Green is proficient on the guitar and combined with his smooth, melodic vocals, he creates a dramatic acoustic sound.  His talents have been recognized by the Juno Awards, where he has been nominated seven times, and has won three – one win going to “The Girl” in 2009.  This song, “The Girl,” from the album, Bring Me Love, is one of my favorites because of its unique “layout,” so to speak.

The song begins with slow, yet upbeat guitar chords and soft lyrics about his affection for a girl who spreads herself thin to keep their relationship going.   He recognizes and appreciated her outward portrayal of affection and the efforts she puts into the relationship. At around the halfway mark of this song, the pace really speeds up, and the song goes through a transition of sorts.  City and Colour really let’s his folk roots emerge after his second count off, while harmonizing beautifully with the various instruments in the background.  The last minute of this song takes on a more somber tone driven by the bold piano in the background.  The diversity of sound in Green’s “The Girl,” forms such a catchy and unique piece of music. With all of its appealing attributes, it has rightfully earned itself the title of Song of the Day.

Song of the Day: The Boy with the Arab Strap by Belle & Sebastian

“Color my life with the chaos of trouble”

The album cover for The Boy with the Arab Strap (1998)

“The Boy with the Arab Strap” is a song from Scottish indie pop band Belle & Sebastian’s 1998 album of the same name. While it wasn’t played in the film (500) Days of Summer its mentioned as Summer’s high school yearbook quote which was “Color my life with the chaos of trouble,” lyrics from this song. In 2011, English music magazine NME named “The Boy with the Arab Strap” the 130th best song of the last 150 years. The name is inspired by the Scottish band Arab Strap and this song almost seems to trash their lead singer, Aidan Moffat although Belle & Sebastian have refused to acknowledge this publicly. The name Belle & Sebastian is derived from Belle et Sébastien, a 1965 French children’s book by Cécile Aubry. While constantly lauded by critics, Belle & Sebastian have been a bit of a commercial disappointment as their music, which has often been described as”wistful pop,” hasn’t quite caught on with the public. Nevertheless, I really enjoy their work and this song in particular.

Song of the Day: Spanish Sahara by Foals

“6 minutes plus to drift away to. And you will”

Foals are an English rock band comprised of five members, four of which dropped out of Oxford University to pursue their ambition. The song “Spanish Sahara” was the promotional single on their second album Total Life Forever. English music magazine NME voted “Spanish Sahara” the Track of the Year for 2010 and named it the 14th best song of the last 15 years.

While it starts off laid-back, soft, and slow, “Spanish Sahara” utilizes amazing build-ups in its transition from calm to chaotic, eventually resulting in a magnificent final section with the help of a brilliant solo. The deathly chilling, restrained track features delicate and somber vocals building in intensity with carefully crafted rhythmic assaults. “Spanish Sahara” is 7 minutes of zoned-out perfection, an experience of sorts that when it ends, leaves you wondering what exactly just happened. Directed as a 7 minute crescendo guided by a gentle bass kick, it tantalizingly teases listeners with a mellow beginning and then releases into an unrelenting splatter of guitar rhythms and haunting vocal melodies.

Song of the Day: Friends by the 22-20s

The 22-20s are an English rock band whose song “Such a Fool” is featured in Guy Ritchie’s criminally underrated film RocknRolla and this song, “Friends,” was showcased in an episode of the latest season of Californication in one of the more apt uses of song I can remember seeing in television

Song of the Day: Heroin by The Velvet Underground

Part of what made the Velvet Underground so special is that they were unlike anything that came before them. Nowadays, it is harder to break new ground because everything has happened already. The reason the Beatles were so big is no one could compare them to anything prior, thus there was limitless potential. Velvet Underground was similar. They created a sound so unique, part-protopunk, part rock and roll that there was simply no predecessor. The Velvet Underground’s debut LP was titled The Velvet Underground and Nico, released in March of 1967 by Verve Records with Andy Warhol producing. Largely ignored and a commercial disappointment, this album is finally beginning to get the recognition it deserves. I can think of no other album that truly illustrates the versatility of a band better and Lou Reed’s lyrics had the courage to broach subjects that hadn’t been brought up in music yet and to this day haven’t been rehashed to the extent that Reed did it.

The above track is entitled “Heroin,” undoubtedly my favorite song not only on this album but of all time. This, as the name suggests, tackles a sensitive subject. The way Reed goes about is tremendous though and it transcends more than just heroin. The pace is fantastic, the foreboding, slow beginning transitioning into the frenetic upswing suddenly, building up steam and emotion only to slow again. The lyrics cover the sheer all-encompassing brutality of drugs, “Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life.” They document how he used drugs as an escape or an outlet and how once he gets high he is able to ignore the greater problems going on in the world. More importantly this song is about more than drugs. It’s about mood swings, bipolar, depression, about from being on top of the world and the ability to be happy about nothing to being in the lowest of lows, a pit of despair. From a feeling of invincibility, to a cowering feeling of shame, regret, remorse, anxiety, fear, this song covers all spectrums. It is both eloquently beautiful and painfully sad all at once.

Lou Reed had the courage to discuss things that at the time weren’t socially acceptable but more importantly he had the skill to weave these lyrics into vivid stories, much like Bob Dylan, that left you feeling satisfied at the end of the song.

Note: The 1999 movie Jesus’ son with Billy Crudup and awesome cameos from Jack Black and Denis Leary was adapted from a collection of short stories by the same name by Dennis Johnson. Johnson’s title is taken from the lyrics of this song

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