I’m Back!

It breaks my heart to see that my last post was in February.  I really wanted to finish 2015 out strong with a solid 52 weeks of continuous music review posts – but the overall project proved much tougher to stick with than I initially realized.

My boss went out on maternity leave, I sold my beloved Prius, and life got complicated – so as a result I have been short on inspiration and time to share my music finds with you all.  But in the meantime I have been keeping up with monthly reviews for EarToTheGround (ETTG) Music blog, and have had no shortage of great tunes for the daily drive.

I’m coming back strong – aiming for monthly reviews in the summer, not weekly – and hoping to finish up my 52 review goal and come up with a plan on how to reasonable maintain this going forward. My returning gift to you is this special review of a beautiful single from one of my favorite ETTG artists, Michael McArthur.  Hot off the presses, so listen and enjoy!  I’ll be back again soon.

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“Goodbye Lover” by Michael McArthur

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When you’re waiting for a new album from an admired artist, it is always fun to learn about new singles released in the interim that keep you happy in the meantime.  “Goodbye Lover” was a nice surprise, recently recorded by Michael in L.A. with support from well-known producer Greg Wells and released to iTunes in April.  I had really enjoyed Michael’s full-length release “Magnolia” as well as his holiday cover of “Imagine”, so I knew this was a song I had to experience.

The song starts out really stripped down, basic guitars creating an arpeggio-type foundation to highlight Michael’s strengths as a vocalist (I would describe him as a slightly more sensitive Adam Levine).  A background feeling from reverb like wind chimes moves in and out, as he laments that “our light burned out too soon”.

Despite the heavy subject matter of heartbreak, this song has a memorable, light and easy-rolling chorus: “Goodbye lover, goodbye friend / We had a good run, but now we’ve reached the end / As for me, if you’re wondering /I’ll be countin’ all the days ‘till I see you again”.  Beautiful harmonies waft in and out, as well as rhythmic backing vocals on the emotional bits, pleading “Please don’t forget about me – I’m scared, I’m sorry.”

Slight drums à la Peter Gabriel chime in at the very end with a world-beat, islander feel.  And Michael’s voice really lets loose here – he is not afraid to let it wail for an effect that is wistful and soulful, vulnerable and broken.

Four minutes and two seconds goes by in a flash – too soon.  This track would be a treat for the listener who is already a fan, or an intriguing introduction to a talented new artist. Check it out!

 

Link to Audio on Michael’s Site:

http://www.michaelmcarthurmusic.com/#music-section

 

In Memoriam: A Personal Perspective

If you look online today, or indeed, for many days to come – you will find a plethora of memorial pieces on David Bowie, extolling the virtues of his legacy, his work, his art, his fashion, his personas, his self.  I love all of this – and as I am unable to replicate any of it, I will not attempt to.

But I can share why Bowie’s passing means so much to me – and is giving me quiet pause today.  My older brother might fact-check my timeline, but I think – I think David Bowie is almost solely responsible for my own love of rock.

I first discovered Bowie’s recordings via tiny audio clips in Microsoft Encarta on my parent’s new Pentium processor (we were just entranced by this technical functionality).   I was 10 or 11 at the time, and my conservative parents didn’t want us listening to music that wasn’t instrumental, so naturally I was hooked on Bowie’s magnetic appearance and dramatic voice!

I had always followed my big brother around asking nerdy questions about Star Wars, earth science, Medieval history, classic children’s literature… but now I asked him about music – not just David Bowie, but about any rock music that came up.  What are you playing on your guitar? (Nirvana).  Who is Stevie Ray Vaughan? (Awesome).  And so on… but Bowie’s music always stuck with me, and he became a favorite artist:

  • I remember when CMU played nearly all of  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust album between sets an an  Elliot Smith show (it was truly the perfect setting and tons of fun).
  • I remember making a lifelong friend in college almost exclusively because of our mutual admiration for Bowie – I still imagine her singing the harmonies to “Starman” whenever I hear it.
  • I remember rejecting the character of the fictitious Brian Slade from Velvet Goldmine, because Jonathan Rhys Meyers just wasn’t as cool as the real Bowie.
  • I remember when my brother invited me to sing the backing vocals to his band’s cover of “Little China Girl” at one of his live shows.
  • I remember missing the Bowie concert in Pittsburgh (with deep regret) because $75 seemed like a small fortune when I made my money $2 at a time as a waitress.
  • I remember singing my heart out to a second-hand Ziggy Stardust cassette, in the first (and only) beater car that my parents gave me.

Small things really – but just examples of how Bowie is more than a stack of albums or even a fashion icon to so many.  In my own life his art was the start of my love affair with rock n’ roll, and a way to connect with friends and make memories over the last 23 years.  RIP, and thank you, DB. 🙂

Bowie

 

 

Pathetic Excuses and a Mini-Review

Why I don’t have much to share this week – by Hannah

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So I know I owe you a music review or two (I have also been slacking at the giveaways and playlists) – but I was distracted this past weekend with a trip to the D, where I got this great shirt and a suggestion for a future review.

In the meantime, are you listening to Beck’s new single, “Dreams”?  It was released in June, but just hit radio play in the past 2 weeks.  Funky and techy and edgy and fun – it is exactly what you want, and even better than you think it would be.

I will have something for you soon – I actually have several great CDs and a few new artists in the mix right now. I just need to pick something and start writing!  Have a great week.

RMC

Whoa, We’re Halfway There…

I can’t believe I am halfway through my year of music exploration!  And I have only had one lonely little week without a music review.  I am feeling proud and sad at the same time – in some ways this is going very very quickly, and way too fast.

I missed the chance to put together an April playlist for you on Spotify, so I’ll come up with something a little longer (and hopefully less random) as an April/May retrospective hybrid soon.  No matter how weird it looks, I’m sure it will sound awesome on shuffle!

This week’s news is that I am finally branching out onto INSTAGRAM for the first time – so if you have been missing my clever little home-staged photos incorporating album art, you’ll be able to catch all of them again on a weekly basis.  Now I just need to figure out the hashtag thing…

Finally, I am overdue for a giveaway!  I have just a few CDs still kicking around here, but if you’d like one, please 1) comment on my blog post below, 2) comment on this week’s FB post for the Courtney Barnett piece, or 3) send an email to Hannah@rockmycommute.com.

Thanks for sticking with me for the past six months!  I hope you are reading and even listening to some of this stuff!

Hannah

Getting Back on Track!

I took last Tuesday off for a little “me” time – I really needed a break from everything!  But now I’m back, ready to rock and roll with plenty of new CDs and suggestions to review.  The partnership with EarToTheGround Music is going really well, and I love hearing the awesome new artists they are sending my way.  Check out their website, since they publish a brand-new music review by one of their authors every day of the week!

In terms of the content here at RMC, I want to get a little more organized.  Here is what I’m thinking:

  • Monday Night Music Reviews – on the blog
  • Wednesday Night Music Topics – on Facebook and Twitter
  • Friday Whenever – Weekend kickoff with a fun song suggestion, and other website updates in “what’s going on”, CD giveaways, Spotify playlist updates, etc…

Let’s see how this goes!

Finally – thanks to those of you who gave me a “like” on FB directly (or indirectly) for the Carter Sampson piece.  Ruth and Naomi will get a CD from my collection as soon as I can get the envelopes together.  I appreciate all of the support!

Hannah

LINKS:

An End to a Mellow March

March was full of milder music for me – my commute actually wasn’t very rocking, on most days! I covered three artists suggested by EarToTheGround Music, and they focus mostly on indie folk, bluegrass, acoustic, and country-esque genres. Throw in some Other Lives, and Mandolin Orange; and the overall melange is still pretty chill. Sure, I added Beck to the mix – but his album Morning Phase is gentle even in it’s wildest moments! When I put my favorite tracks together for the March Spotify Playlist I was pleasantly surprised by the resulting ebb and flow of one great song into the next – even if the music didn’t tempt me to whip my hair around or play air guitar at a stoplight. Sometimes, mellow is exactly what you need!

Please check out my most recent Playlist on Spotify here:  https://play.spotify.com/user/rockmycommute/playlist/0PjIQX2wn056ZgexiUgqcg  – I even added two tracks from an old favorite band for your enjoyment. Also please read my review of Carter Sampson’s new EP. I highly recommend that you check out her earlier releases also – they’re excellent!

Finally, if you comment on my blog or “like” my Carter Sampson post on Facebook, I’ll try to send you one of the CDs that I have kicking around. Thanks for sticking with me for another month!

Hannah

How was your Beck week?

This was another crazy week for me – but at least I got to listen to a decent song here or there.  Check out my review of Erin Kay’s new album Into the Light on eartothegroundmusic.co – and here. Also, please see my list of Beck memories and moments below!  Since this is the last post for March, I’ll have a new Spotify playlist and CD giveaway ready for you soon.  Have a Happy Tuesday!

Hannah

A Brief Summary of My Personal Beck Experience:

  • Mellow Gold (1994) – like most people, this was my first exposure to Beck. I was really young, and one of the “cool kids” in school was obsessed with Beck and the song “Loser”, so I was automatically drawn to it.  “Beercan” has held a special place in my heart since a friends’ band performed a funkified cover of the song at a college music fest.  And I’m pretty sure that “Pay No Mind” was on one of the first mixed tapes I ever got from a boy.
  • Odelay (1996) – This has to be on someone’s list of the top 100 albums of all time. What an amazing year for music, at such a pivotal time for self-expression and artistic evolution!  Lots of sampled sounds and edgy combos of acoustic and electric instruments on this one.  “The New Pollution” is definitely my favorite track from this one (again discovered on a friend’s mixed tape) that takes me way back to high school.
  • Mutations (1998) – I remember this album coming out; I remember the cover art. I didn’t think I remembered any of the songs until I pulled it up Spotify again for this article.  Holy heck, do I remember this!  Again, so much of that 90s sound and attitude, with Beck’s disinterested vocal style and basic acoustic guitars behind everything.  This CD does include some of the slower, more intentional themes and styles that you will see emerging later on Sea Change and Morning Phase – be warned!  “Tropicalia” is my favorite, possibly just because it has a great beat and it really moves.
  • Midnite Vultures (1999) – If you ask me what my favorite Beck album is, I will say without hesitation that it is Midnite Vultures, the sometimes comically danceable CD emblazoned with neon-pink stretch pants from 1999. The fact that this fun release coincided with my freshman year of college is probably not surprising to anyone.  The songs “Broken Train” and “Beautiful Way” are more what you would consider “typical” Beck, in line with prior releases.  My favorite track is a tie between the raucous “Sexx Laws” and the 90s pop-style “Pressure Zone”.
  • Sea Change (2002) – I love the opening song, “The Golden Age”. In 2002 I was a fresh college graduate, with a new apartment – I am sure I spent way too many long hours of unpacking sentimental crap while listening to this album.  There are lots of open, easy guitar chords on this – Beck has a gorgeous singing voice, but there is none of the craziness on this album that makes some of the other releases so much fun.  But because it is Beck himself, there are lots of intelligently sampled and selected effects, and instrumentations that make each song a work of art.
  • Guero (2005) – The album opens with the rhythmic and awesomely gritty “E-Pro”; this is catchy and unforgettable. My favorites are actually “Girl” and “Black Tambourine”.  There are slower songs mixed into the crazy fun beats on this album, but somehow the energy seems to keep moving throughout, instead of sliding into some kind of stale sameness.  I’m tempted to say this is my 2nd favorite Beck album; but then again 2005 was a really great year for me so my rosy retrospection is probably in full effect.
  • The Information (2006) – The song “Elevator Music” is classic Beck, with the semi-rapped lyrics over a funky background and a catchy chorus. “Think I’m In Love” is my favorite.  A lot of the songs on here are dancy and fun, but this is about the time I started getting really sucked into grad school and really fell out of listening to anything other than bland study music.  Sadly I really don’t remember most of these songs, at least not to sing along to.
  • Modern Guilt (2008) – “Gamma Ray” is an awesome song, with a vintage Vultures-esque feeling on the chorus, and lots of fun vocal effects. “Chemtrails” is a slower song, with Beach Boys style vocals over a really rad baseline.  But my favorite is “Soul of a Man”, as always just because of its simple rocking style – I can imagine Patti Smith singing something like this.  Honestly, this whole album is pretty good and I should spend more time re-discovering it.  This is about the timeframe during which I became extremely busy with work and life, so I stopped listening to good stuff and would just scan pop radio stations.  I think I also had a Sirius subscription in 2008, and so it was too tempting to listen to 80s hair bands in unhealthy amounts. Ah, memories!

What is YOUR Personal Beck Experience?!

Daylight Again

I hate to even mention Daylight Savings Time, but something was making me feel a little chaotic this week. I hope you don’t mind me taking an extra day to get organized before posting my Other Lives review!

Also, I know totally botched the execution of this month’s “drawing”/contest for the February CDs, which is horribly unfair.  I knew I could easily  track my Facebook shares from the blog, but it is hard to find out who is actually sharing – so I’ll be running any giveways directly from https://www.facebook.com/rockmycommute going forward.  Be sure to “like” my page, so we can stay in touch!

The extra hour of sunlight and nearly 60-degree weather on the home commute is helping me to feel energetic and whole again – I’m looking forward to popping a new CD in the Prius tomorrow and getting back to work.  Have a wonderful week!

Hannah

P.S.  Thank you Libby, Jo, Bill, Ginger, and Lydia for being faithful readers and supporters.  You’ll each be getting a CD in the mail from me soon!

Another Month, Another Giveaway – AND T-Shirts!

UPDATE: To make sure I see your February CD drawing entry this week, try sharing a blog post from my facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/rockmycommute), OR you can comment on my blog, OR you can send an email to: contact@rockmycommute.com  Thanks – sorry for the confusion while I figure this all out!

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February always flies by so fast, and at RMC this February was no exception.  Somehow I always found just enough time to jot down my thoughts about each week’s CD, as one day rolled into the next and things felt busier and busier… Happily this month’s music selections were mostly AWESOME!  So, I have four great CDs to give away: Milky Chance, Manu Chao, Head and the Heart, and Guster.

I also now have RMC t-shirts available!  They’re a lovely gray with a white logo; $10 each in S/M/L/XL.

To win a CD, just share your favorite RMC album review on your facebook page!  I’ll announce the winners on the RMC facebook page too.  I’m trying this for the first time, so we’ll see if this works better than last month’s email fiasco.  To order a t-shirt, send me a note with your details (size and address) and we can arrange payment (amazon bucks, paypal, old-fashioned check or hopefully – swap for a new CD!):   contact@rockmycommute.com

Thanks so much for showing support for this project, and for keeping it going with your music suggestions.

Hannah