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.
It is a rarity for a song to capture the zeitgeist in a meaningful manner. On the patriotic side, the songs can sound forced and full of propaganda jingles. On the rebel alliance side, the sounds can also sound forced and full of propaganda jingles. It takes a perfect storm of outside forces to produce a song that captures an era or event. Jesus, Etc by Wilco was recorded in early 2001, released in early 2002. Written by Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett, it uses evocative lyrical imagery married to country-ish musical backing. It is one of the more straightforward songs from the experimental tour de force, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Tweedy’s opening world-weary sigh “Jesus, don’t cry / You can rely on me honey” comes straight out of conversations couples have each and every day. The melodic string laden hook pulsates throughout the song, making it instantly memorable. Veering on the “glass is half empty” world view, Tweedy continues “You were right about the stars / Each one is a setting sun”. A pessimist’s way of imploring the listener to embrace the now? Possibly. The post 9/11 world was full of misguided nationalism, but it also left an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty. Sadness permeated the air. Considering this song was written PRE 9/11 but released POST 9/11, the next verses are just a bit eerie “Tall buildings shake / Voices escape singing sad sad songs / Voices whine / Skyscrapers are scraping together”. Metaphors for conflict in a relationship and the sadness that ensues. Tweedy resolves everything with a bit of a non resolution “Our love is all of God’s money / Everyone is a burning sun”. Another brilliant way of imploring us to embrace the now. The ancient Epicureans famously believed in the philosophy of “Eat, drink, be merry – for tomorrow we may die”. In the post 9/11 world, Wilco captured that essence in a way that made the world take notice. I believe that is a philosophy worth embracing no matter what our religious beliefs are. Make each moment count.
The Cornelius Crane – Manchester, England’s answer to American alt-country – have released over an album’s worth of quality material over the last 2 years or so. Instead of delivering 12 songs on the traditional long player, the band have delivered 3 songs here, 4 songs there. I think this approach has worked out well for the band – quality song after quality song, with a 6 to 9 month wait for a new batch instead of the traditional 18 months to 2 years wait between full length albums. Steve, Dan, Mark, & friends have never even delivered a mediocre song, so it is no surprise that the new EP Soul in the Lightning is a bona fide masterpiece.
If anything, you can’t fault Ryan Adams for lacking pure enthusiasm when it comes to his recording career. He has attacked disparate genres with gusto, though his later records have mostly settled into a pop rock alt county feel (not counting his metal side project, Orion). His recent records aren’t bad by any means, they just seem to lack that certain “it” factor. Perhaps a bit workmanlike, perhaps a little too serious. It’s been 3 1/2 years since the release of 2011’s Ashes & Fire which is absolute eternity in the world of Ryan Adams. Here we are with a new single and exclusive b-side, tasters for the upcoming self titled album. How do the tunes stack up?
Gimme Something Good is a slice of John Mellencamp inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll. For the cool kids at home reading this, you can think of it as Bruce Springsteen inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll. The track has a roots rock based vibe, building into a chorus that will get lodged in your head in no time at all. Honestly, the chorus was slightly underwhelming the 1st time I heard it, but I can’t deny that I’ve been singing the tune since the 1st time I heard it. This a good sign for the full length record. For Ryan Adams fans, think back to the 3 albums he released in 2005 (29, Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights) – that’s the feel of this single. Grateful Dead by way of Gram Parsons by way of John Mellencamp. Aching For More is more acoustic based and tones down the Rock ‘n ‘Roll vibe in favor of an alt-country feel. It is a nice counterpart to the A side. All in all, this new single has me looking forward to a new Ryan Adams album in a way that I haven’t felt since the mid 00’s.
Verdict: Something Great
For Fans of: Whiskeytown, Gram Parsons, The Byrds, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen
Sunstack Jones hail from “North of England” (members live in Liverpool & Blackburn) and say that they are composed of “always two, sometimes three but mostly four or maybe five musicians”. That includes Lorcan Moriarty on guitars (formerly of NME darlings Maupa) and Chris Jones on vocals. This 2 song single is my vote for 2013’s summertime anthem. Though the band’s name conjures up visions of an obscure Motown cool cat the tunes bring to mind pop driven Americana played to perfection. The A side is the track begging for radio play whilst the B side offers up a slice of melancholy to give you a break from singing at the top of your lungs. Both tracks are simply perfect and have me really looking forward to the bands forthcoming full length (their 2nd).
The Empire Strikes Back is usually considered the strongest film of the original Star Wars series. As it turns out, it was also the 2nd film (but now I think it is considered the 5th because of the newer trilogy). The Wrath of Khan is also considered the best of the original Star Trek series and you guessed it – it’s the 2nd film. There have been epic failures in the sequel class of course – The Matrix sequels come to mind (sorry to anyone who enjoyed them. Drop me a line and explain them to me please) – but when a sequel is done right it can reinforce the positive attributes of what came before while building and adding to that foundation. The Cornelius Crane’s new EP follows their critically acclaimed record, E.P. Too. It hits all the right notes, falling into the Empire / Khan category that I talked about earlier.