Monday, March 29, 2010

Top 5 of the Moment - 3/29/10

As much as I love the "One Video Ahead" and "Now Hear This!" series, I must say they can be a bit constricting. So while those series will continue, I've decided to start a new one to share whatever I happen to be into at the moment, as long as it's relevant to music.

1. Liam and Me - "Say It Out Loud"

It seems as though everyone I know in the music business already loves this band. Maybe I just know a lot of people with good taste. I haven't seen Liam and Me in person yet, and so far they only have one single out -- but what a single! "Say It Out Loud" sure is some snappy, melodic pop-rock with sly lyrics; it's got "hit" written all over it. Also, you know that I rarely enjoy music videos, but I genuinely like this one!

2. "Somewhere" in '60s pop music

So how great is West Side Story, anyway? Well, I don't know.....I've never seen a dancing, singing gang in real life.....but how about those songs? "Somewhere" has long been one of my favorite tunes of all time, and lately I've been thinking about two rather quirky hit versions from the 1960s. The best-known to American audiences, as well as the easiest for us in the US to find, is by Len Barry, done in a stomping Motownish style with some downright odd vocal acrobatics and....recognize that horn riff in the intro? It's one of those records that shouldn't work, but does.

And then there's P.J. Proby's version, a minor hit in the US but a sensation in the UK. I could go to the trouble of describing just how he came up with this interpretation, but those would be mere words, and mere words cannot do it justice. It just has to be heard to be believed:

There's also a very good, albeit much less quirky, version by The 4 Seasons, from their Entertain You album. Any other '60s pop versions I should know about?

3. Birdie Busch

She's a favorite on the Philly music scene, and I've recently come to understand why. This delicate-voiced young woman excels at writing songs that are intelligent without being pretentious, and can she ever play some rootsy guitar. And as if her musical talents weren't enough, she keeps us both entertained and enlightened with her fascinating musings on her blog: I must admit to being a late-comer to her fan base, but better late than never, right?

4. Ringooooo!!!!!

Ringo Starr's solo work seems to be extremely polarizing; just look at the comments below any of his online videos. Okay, so his solo talents don't quite measure up to those of his former bandmates, but he has come up with some charming and even moving material over the years. "Walk With You," the lead single from his new album Y Not, has received a lot of attention for featuring a prominent harmony vocal from Paul McCartney. That's all well and good, but if you ask me, it deserves to be recognized as a genuinely good song, too! Its message about the triumph of love and friendship is just what we need in these times of bitter discord. To hear two old friends, who happen to be the only surviving members of the Fab Four, sing it together just adds an extra layer of poignancy. Yes, these guys are truly survivors, and it's comforting to hear two of The Beatles' voices together again.

I don't have the whole album as of yet, but Ringo recently did a great World Cafe interview about it:

5. Makes no difference if the man in the mirror is black or white.

The question that has puzzled us for decades: did Michael Jackson really have a skin disorder or did he deliberately make his skin lighter? The answer to both questions is: yes. If you haven't heard the news, check it out:

While you're at it, compare that article to this one. I don't remember how or when I found it, but it really makes you think:

And that is today's Top 5 of the Moment!

Text copyright © 2010 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 22, 2010

EP Review: The Panic Is On!

"And all I want is to go farther than my mouth will let me." (from "Farther")

If we think of life and its soundtrack as part of a continuum, the past few months in the One Note Ahead universe have made perfect sense. For example, at the end of 2009, Panic Years' self-titled debut and Reality Stricken's Signal Fire ran neck-and-neck in the "EP of the Year" stakes, with Panic Years getting the nod. Here I am three months later, now Reality Stricken's publicist, beginning another phase of campaigning on their behalf but taking a little time out to review Panic Years' second EP.

Finally, Today Is Tomorrow is not a radical departure from the first EP. Yes, the band's influences are somewhat more pronounced this time around, Foo Fighters and Silversun Pickups in particular, but Panic Years still don't really sound like anyone else to my ears. The basic elements that made the band so special in the first place are still here: fluid-but-driving guitars, complex drumming patterns, raw vocals, and the juxtaposition of beautiful melodies with downbeat lyrics.

However, Finally is not a mere retread of the eponymous debut. Finally has a more straightforward rock sound overall, with a greater focus on electric guitars and drums presented more aggressively in the mix. Considering what singer Ed Everett does to his voice, it's a wonder he even has one left, but on this EP he explores new dimensions of it: from soft near-whispering to throaty growling to shouting like Mick Jagger, as well as the pained screaming we so loved on the first record. There is also a higher level of complexity to the song structures and arrangements, although this seems a natural progression given that the songs and arrangements on Panic Years were hardly simple.

EPs are proving to be an ideal medium for this band, with two strong five-song collections that have their own identities and personalities. It'll be interesting to see where Panic Years go next artistically, but meanwhile they will be literally going a few places to celebrate tomorrow's release of Finally, Today Is Tomorrow. Catch them on Volta Radio tomorrow night, March 23rd, at 7:30 PM (EDT) and on Radio 104.5 Friday, March 26th, at 5 PM (EDT). If you're free that night, at least 21, and can get there and back home, consider their CD release show at North Star in Philly.

For music and more info:
Panic Years EP review:

Copyright © 2010 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.