Toad the Wet Sprocket – Walk on The Ocean

Toad

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The very first concert I saw was Toad the Wet Sprocket at the Trocadero in Philadelphia, PA at some point in 1992. A little known band by the name of Gin Blossoms opened up. Strangely enough, people were moshing during Toad the Wet Sprocket’s set, and singer Glen Phillips commented on the absurdity of it all. The early 90’s were a strange time. The band were touring behind their 3rd record, Fear, and were on the cusp of becoming a household name. I gravitated towards the morose songs in Toad’s repertoire, the emotional depth touching a raw nerve in my teenage brain. Walk on The Ocean spoke to me in a way that those special songs tend to do. The ocean is a spiritual place for me – growing up in the Philadelphia area I spent summers on Long Beach Island, NJ at my Grandfather’s house. When I moved to Washington State, I took as many road trips as possible to discover Puget Sound beaches as well as gems up and down the coast in Washington, Oregon, and California. Yes, you could say that I love the ocean. Lyrically, the song revolves around a gathering of new acquaintances, drawn to the freeing nature of the sea. “Somebody told me this is the place / Where everything’s better and everything’s safe”. A sentiment that rings true, and always will. Musically, the song takes elements of some of the indie and slowcore bands of the day (Red House Painters, The Ocean Blue, Galaxie 500), and adds in a pop slant. The chorus “Walk on the ocean, step on the stones / Flesh becomes water, wood becomes bone” is delivered with a haunting ache, embracing the moment while already lamenting the passage of time. The point is driven home in last verse “Don’t even have pictures, just memories to hold / Grows sweeter each season, as we slowly grow old”. A lyric for the ages, if you ask me. The song hit #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was one of the band’s defining songs of the 90’s. The band would go on to even greater success with their follow-up album, Dulcinea, and after a long hiatus are once again a viable entity. Walk on The Ocean still pulls at me, 24 years later. Wistful, nostalgic, happy – it has it all.

Death Threat Cassette – Dial M for Masham

Masham

About 3 years ago or so I was sent the debut album by Death Threat Cassette, a 1 man band based out of North Yorkshire, England. I was instantly blown away by the originality on display – a perfect meshing of violence & beauty, 90’s inspired yet modern. It was one of my favorite albums of 2013, and I’ve been patiently waiting for a follow-up ever since. Dial M for Masham arrives unheralded yet once again makes a case for being album of the year. It will feel instantly familiar to those who have heard the 1st album, yet mixes it up enough to rope in new listeners. Lee Pecqueur aka Death Threat Cassette disproves the theory of the “sophomore slump”.

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Charles Bradley – Changes

Changes

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The upcoming final tour by Black Sabbath (I’m attending the February 2016 show in Tacoma, WA) had me playing all the Ozzy albums and creating playlists of my favorite songs. I kept coming back to the song Changes from 1972’s Vol. 4. A sad ballad inspired by (former) drummer Bill Ward’s divorce, it stands out from the doom metal the band is known for. As great as the original is, the song was covered in 2013 by soul singer Charles Bradley to stunning effect. The original featured a sparse production which helped highlight the sad nature of the lyrics. Charles Bradley takes that and builds on it – he adds a deep rhythm section to the tune, making it a perfect transition to a soul stunner. Bradley sings his heart out – in fact, if a listener heard this version 1st they probably wouldn’t believe you if you told them Ozzy Osbourne had sung this originally, 44 years ago. When talking about heartbreak, the direct approach has always spoken to me – and this song’s lyrics take the cake: “I feel unhappy / I feel so sad / I lost the best friend / That I ever had / …I’m going through changes”

David Bowie – Blackstar

 Blackstar_album_cover

Where were you when you found out David Bowie died? Seems like a dream or a hypothetical question, doesn’t it? Sitting on the couch last night, sipping on a drink while watching some old silent movies from 90 years ago (hipster alert!), I saw something come across my Facebook feed that seemed like a hoax – “David Bowie dead at age 69 after an 18 month battle with cancer”. I still couldn’t believe it. I waited an hour or so and checked again – confirmed as true. I couldn’t believe it. David Bowie seemed indestructible, and even odder – had released an album 2 days ago. My initial impressions “David Bowie ★ 1st impressions – I have enjoyed this record the 1st two times I’ve listened to it. Gratuitous sax is an apt description, but it fits the music well. My favorite Bowie album (by far) is Station to Station, and this one reminds me a bit of that one. Much better than The Next Day, but as far as modern Bowie goes I’d rate it below Earthling and Heathen. Some of my favorite Bowie lyrics “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen” along with lyrics that I absolutely hate “Man, she punched me like a dude”. Happy 69th to David Jones aka David Bowie. A solid record.” In the context of David Bowie’s death, I’ve given Blackstar about a dozen more spins. And my perspective has changed.

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Ozzy Osbourne – Dreamer

Ozzy

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

 In the wake of global or personal tragedies, people tend to reach for musical anthems that provide a feeling of unification. After the attacks in Paris at an Eagles of Death Metal show, my Social Network feed was inundated with clips of John Lennon’s Imagine. Truly, one of the best songs in history by one of my favorite artists. I also found myself playing Dreamer by Ozzy Osbourne – a song that equally embraces hope while facing the realities of this world head on. One of Ozzy’s musical heroes is John Lennon and this song was written with a Lennon-esque vibe in mind. A plaintive ballad, it lays bare Ozzy’s voice along with some true emotion. You trainspotters might realize that Robert Trujillo plays bass on this song (and the album it is taken from, Down To Earth). Trujillo went on to play bass for Metallica and will soon be the longest tenured bassist in Metallica’s existence (no small feat!). At any rate, this is one of my favorite songs of all time. Ozzy goes through seemingly insurmountable problems – the destruction of Mother Earth, religion, prejudice – and dreams for an end to these problems. It might not be the worldview you think Ozzy would have or even the song you’d expect from Ozzy. Give it a try – what it is, is a perfect song in the style of The Beatles by an artist who isn’t always given a fair shake. “If only we could all just find serenity / It would be nice if we could live as one / When will all this anger, hate and bigotry… / Be gone? / I’m just a dreamer / I dream my life away”

Jenn Vix – Strange Buildings

Jenn Vix

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to talk with John Ashton, formerly of The Psychedelic Furs about his new project, Satellite Paradiso. The band’s debut album showed Mr. Ashton & company moving on from the shadow of the ‘Furs, forging their own unique identity. It rates as one of my favorite albums of the last year or so. When I got wind that John Ashton featured on two tracks on Jen Vix’s new EP, Strange Buildings, I knew I had to give it a spin. Jenn Vix hails from Providence, Rhode Island and has forged an independent path whilst working with such luminaries as Reeves Gabrels (David Bowie, The Cure, Jeffrey Gaines), and Andy Anderson (The Cure). Her latest EP just might be her finest work to date, Ashton’s guitar work providing a complimentary element to Vix’s soulful vocal delivery.

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Ummagma – Frequency

ummagma

Ummagma hail from Peterborough, Ontario – about 80 miles northeast of Toronto. The town’s nickname is “The Electric City” because it was the 1st town in all of Canada to use electric streetlights. In the present day, the town is where technology & manufacturing coexist comfortably.  Fittingly, the duo of Shauna McLarnon and Alexander Kretov offer up an intoxicating mix of electronic & organic sounds. The Ummagma story begins in Moscow in 2003 where Alexx and Shauna were residing. The met at an acoustic guitar concert and quickly the relationship became a personal & professional union. Alexx handles composition, instrumentation, arrangements, and vocals while Shauna handles vocals, composition, and lyrics. The music recalls bands such as Lush, Cocteau Twins, and Kraftwerk but the overall vibe is one of originality. The background of the band members has a great deal to do with that uniqueness – Alexx hails from the Ukraine and began making music in the wake of the USSR collapse, while Shauna hails from the Yukon, Canada and began composing music while spending time in Siberia, Moscow, and northern Canada. Frequency is the band’s new EP and it is the strongest offering from the duo yet.

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The Lovely Intangibles – Tomorrow Is Never

thelovelyintangibles

I once read on the world wide web’s preeminent authority on all things in life – Wikipedia – that film noir is “a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly such that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.” The two modern writer / directors that I would associate with that term would be Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. Both filmmakers are notable for their films’ visual flair, storytelling, and use of music that evokes a visceral reaction from the viewer. What good is a perfect film if it doesn’t have the perfect music? Along those lines, I’ve often sought out artists that sound like they are providing a soundtrack to an imaginary noir film. New York City’s The Lovely Intangibles fit the bill in stunning fashion.

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