Today we are treated to a wonderful, whimsical, slice of power pop: “Funny Things” from Static In Verona. The song is a wall of melody and massed harmonies, heavy drums and bass on the bottom, light touches of guitar and keyboard, even handclaps. Everything that I love in a great pop song is here except a cowbell, and there might be one or two of those down in the mix somewhere. The first time I listened to “Funny Things” I thought, “Hit record… in 1983.” Oh well, better late than never.
And speaking of better late than never, this isn’t a brand new song. It’s from the album Secrets Like Shadows, released way back in September 2017 when Reverb Raccoon was on a bit of a hiatus. But we’re no stranger to Static In Verona, having reviewed Odd Anthem, the previous album, in 2015. The most difficult part of today’s project was picking a single song to feature. “Funny Things” is my favorite, but there are plenty of potential Songs of the Day on Secrets Like Shadows.
Static In Verona is the work of Chicago musician Rob Merz. Every note is written, performed, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Rob. And the last time we checked, he was doing all of this in his basement. Given the complexity of the songs and the arrangements, and the effort required to create and perfect each song, it is humbling to realize that Rob has released 46 tracks on 4 albums since 2010. As Ward Cleaver may have said, “It just goes to show what you can accomplish when you apply yourself, Beaver.”
Today’s song of the day comes to us all the way from Portland, Oregon: “Might Not Survive” by Frenz. From the upcoming album Flower Farm (due to hit the stores April 20), “Might Not Survive” is a bit of well-produced fuzzy pop that, at two minutes twenty-five, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Frenz describes itself as “feeding on acorns of weird pop.” This song is a fine acorn, not weird, but born from a tree planted in the mid-sixties. And I can’t believe I actually wrote something so ridiculous.
When we commenced this blog back in the Paleozoic era (in which era my WordPress template is still mired because I don’t know how to change it), our goal was to make the world aware of good tunes (like “Might Not Survive”) without leaning on the reviewer’s well-worn crutch of saying “That song sounds like THIS band and this song sounds like THAT band.” I assumed that it would be enough to say “Hey, this is a good tune and you should listen to it.” Well, that endeavor lasted about two weeks before I was referencing every new song to something that I had heard before. And the more obscure the reference the better since, as all music journalists know, throwing out obscure references to bands no one has ever heard of is a proven method for impressing women and getting laid. Which brings us to “Might Not Survive.”
This song sounds like The Troggs “Love Is All Around.” No, not the theme from the Mary Tyler Moore show. The song by the guys who did “Wild Thing.” It has a similar chord progression, similar melody, similar structure. Here, listen to this…
OK, maybe it isn’t that similar. And, anyway, I’m not saying that sounding similar to a song from 1967 is a bad thing. I LIKE “Might Not Survive.” I even PAID $1.29 for it and you should, too. Don’t be one of those leeches that pays $8.00 every morning for a fancy Starbucks coffee then streams all of your music for free.
Hey, this is a good tune and you should listen to it. I’m looking forward to hearing – and buying – the remainder of the album. You can check out Frenz’s (or is it Frenz’) music on their Bandcamp page. And visit their Facebook page and hit the Like button.
“You Dug Me a Garden” begins with lightly plucked cittern, adds voice, harmonies, strings, and ends with nearly two minutes of unaccompanied string duet. The effect is entirely charming.
“Don’t Get Tall” features the Hobart Community Ensemble beautifully protesting the efforts of Singaporean developer Koh Wee Meng to build a 210m-tall hotel in Hobart. This looks like the “We are the World” of Tasmanian musicians. The song includes a soulful organ solo of the type rarely heard since that day when all of the keyboard players rushed out to trade in their Hammond organs and Leslie speakers for a synthesizer that could be carried in one hand but sounded like crap. You can also enjoy the YouTube video of “Don’t Get Tall,” with scenes of the Hobart that the community wishes to preserve.
The music of Teri Young is available on her Bandcamp page, and on Soundcloud. And be sure to visit her Facebook page. CD’s of Your Next Place Will Be Nice Too are packaged in a 100% recycled cardboard case and include a lyrics booklet and artwork by Cara Edwards.
Who doesn’t like a good hornpipe? Well, probably a lot of people. But here at Reverb Raccoon, we embrace all types of music and musicians, including old time fiddlers like Kelly Jones of the Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association (MSOTFA to the cognescenti).
Now I’ll admit to not knowin’ much about them Yankee fiddlers from Mizzoo. I’m more of a Frazier Moss / Benny Martin man, havin’ growed up in the Upper Cumberland region o’ Tennessee. But, as my grampaw used to say, “Good fiddlin’ is good fiddlin’.” And this here “Cincinnati Hornpipe” is a good’un.
“Cincinnati Hornpipe” is from the album, Authentic Old Time Fiddle Tunes (MSOTFA 005). As you might imagine from the shirt Kelly Jones is wearing on the cover, this album was recorded and released by the MSOTFA way back in ’75. That’s 1975, not 1875. Actually, that shirt looks like it was in Kelly’s closet for at least five years before the picture was made. But, as my grampaw used to say, “A good shirt never goes outta style.” And the “Rare 8.98″ sticker that the photographer left on the cover is a nice touch. I assume it refers to the album and not the shirt, but I may be wrong.
Now some of you Millennials is probably wondering what the heck a hornpipe is. Well, it’s a type of folk dance, done in hard shoes, that is often (incorrectly, according to Wikipedia), associated with English sailors. Here we see a group of said British sailors, taking a break from ruling the waves to dance a hornpipe. Looks like a blast.
If you’d like to learn more about old time fiddlin’, you are in luck. The MSOTFA has 39 releases available on Bandcamp, and you can download the whole kit-n-kaboodle for the low low price of only $91.80! That’s a 55% savings! Sorry, Confederate money is not accepted.
“Fickle Blood,” a new song by Forage and Wander, is instantly engaging with a softly strummed guitar changing to upbeat chords over downbeaten drums. More of a mini-suite, the shifting textures and tempos recall Uncle Tupelo (the usual suspect cited in these situations), with an excellently-sung, melodic vocal.
The song seems to describe the borderline mental illness that arrives post-breakup or perhaps post-death, with lyrics such as, ”It feels unclear with the passing of time that I will always be fine.”
“‘Fickle Blood’ was written in a very fragile time in my life,” the anonymous composer writes on the band’s Facebook page. “It carries a lot of emotion and helped me deal with a lot of the pain I had at that time. My hope is that this song can help you as well as it helped me.”
The Ohio band describes itself as “post-hardcore / indie rock.” I’ve never been clear about the whole post-rock thing, but it seems to mean trying to do something other than power chords with verse and chorus. Whatever it is, “Fickle Blood” is a great song. It is the initial release from Time Well Spent, a five-song EP arriving March 2nd. I plan to buy it, and you should, too.
Today we feature two songs, “Sea to Shining Sea” and “The Ties That Bind Us” from the album Vanishing Point by Castles in the Sky. These showed up in Bandcamp’s Folk section, and immediately jumped out from the acoustic-guitar-and-banjo-with-nasally-vocal fodder that typically fills that trough. The songs have the loose, rollicking bluesiness of Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan, but vocally and lyrically they recall Elliott Murphy. Not that we need to pigeonhole anything.
We here at Reverb Raccoon applaud the artist’s willingness to stretch things out. Eight of Vanishing Point‘s ten tracks clock in at over four minutes. The shortest track is 3:16, while “The Ties That Bind Us” is fully seven minutes.
Not that it has anything to do with the music, but this “band” may have an identity problem. There are approximately infinity bands with the name Castles in the Sky. This particular incarnation is, as best I can tell, a fellow named Tim Curran of Glasgow (UK, not Kentucky). And he is, as best I can tell, NOT the California musician and retired professional surfer named Tim Curran (though I may be wrong about that, who knows?).