Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sam Smith - 'I'm Not the Only One'

British sensation Sam Smith made incredible inroads with American audiences in 2014 with his epic ‘Stay with Me.’  In fact, it was near impossible not to walk in public without hearing the song blasted someplace, whether it be the local mall, aquatic center, park, or public square.

There is no doubt that ‘Stay with Me’ is one of the most soulful pop productions of the last decade.  Yet, ‘I’m Not the Only One’ strikes a different, but just as powerful chord, with Yours Truly.

Maybe it’s the subject matter featuring a narrator who is deeply hurt?  Maybe it’s the wonderful instrumental accompaniments?   Or maybe it’s just the sheer fact that Sam Smith is a damned good vocalist??  

In any event, ‘I’m Not the Only One’ resonates in an equally valuable, but very different, way as ‘Stay with Me’ did. 

You can watch the video to ‘I’m Not the Only One’ in the player below:

Hozier - 'Take Me to Church'

Hozier—born Andrew Hozier-Byrne—presents a modern day Gospel with his contemporary masterpiece, ‘Take Me to Church.’ 

The Irishman recently performed ‘Take Me to Church’ on SNL, and he brought down the house.  The song effortlessly brings together blues, Gospel, soul, and rock.  Indeed, it is refreshing to hear an electric guitar-driven alternative track in an era dominated lately by synth, computers, acoustic instruments, and light percussion. 

Beyond the music, the lyrics are deeply powerful and moving.  One choral stanza reads:
           "Take me to Church;  I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies;                              I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife; Offer me that deathless                  death; Good God, let me give you my life."
And when Hozier sings these words, he belts them out with passion and heart.  It may take a few spins for the words to connect to the listener, but once they do, you’ll feel you’ve, in fact, been taken to church.

Watch the SNL performance of ‘Take Me to Church’ in the player below.  (If you want to watch the official video instead, click here):

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Limp Bizkit - 'Rearranged'

Limp Bizkit is often minimized as self-indulgent: making music for the mere sake of mentioning their own name in their recordings.  Sure, they do utter the words “Limp Bizkit” in several of their songs.  And Fred Durst seemed pretty into himself during the band’s heyday.  

Nevertheless, the band produced some iconic songs and videos emblematic of the late-nineties.

Of course, everyone had ‘Nookie’ burned into their brains in 1999.  But Significant Other contained some other great gems.  Among them was ‘Rearranged,’ a seemingly mellow rap-rock track with an arc that travels from chill to raucous in the span of about four minutes. 

The video for ‘Rearranged’ follows the band’s faux arrest, referred to in the video for ‘Nookie.'   Interestingly, it featured Matt Pinfield, the former MTV VeeJay and host.  He plays a judge who sentences the band to death.  Subsequent to that, the band rocks out with their cocks out in the death chamber, playing to the death as the room floods with milk and drowns them. 

The final scene shows the group in what is presumed to be Heaven, having been drowned, when Fred Durst says, “If this were Heaven, I’d be kicking it with Method Man.”  The video cuts to a “To be continued” title screen, setting the stage for the band’s following single, ‘N 2 Gether Now,’ which featured Method Man prominently. 

'Rearranged' was reportedly one of guitarist Wes Borland's favorite tunes of the band's to play.  Indeed, it is one of the undersigned's cherished tracks from the band as well.  

Watch the video to ‘Rearranged’ in the video player below:

Album Review: Godsmack - 'Godsmack'

In 1998, Godsmack was panned as a bunch of Alice in Chains rip-off artists.  Notably, the debut album’s ‘Someone in London’ could have served as sequel to AIC’s ‘Sludge Factory.’  (It also didn’t help that the band shared its name, sans space, with a track from Dirt).   But, for the most part, the Boston band survived off of its own unique energy, as its sound was just hard enough to remove it from the neo-grunge criticisms prevalent of the day. 

Led by Track 2’s ‘Whatever,’ Godsmack shoved its way unto rock and alternative radio with a vengeance.  Angry, pounding, thrashing—yet melodic and slightly poppy—‘Whatever’ served as an anthem for alienated Millennials coming of age in the late-nineties.  Indeed the song’s oft-repeated lyric, “better fuckin’ go away!’ spoke directly to the cohort’s misanthropic attitudes and overall angst. 

Moon Baby’ served as an interesting first track; it features a clip of Neil Armstrong’s famous quote just before the band launches into a driving cut sprinkled with exoticism and mysticism. 

‘Time Bomb’ harmlessly begins like a typical Depeche Mode synth-rock melody before vocalist Sully Erna screams, “I am in living hell; makes me wonder if I’m alive.”  His vocals, of course, are accented by robust guitar and drum work.

Many of the remaining tracks on the album fit within a similar framework:  Sully Erna projects guttural vocals whilst the rest of the band presents thrashing guitars and thumping drums and bass.  The final track, however, departs sharply from this paradigm. 

Godsmack’s final offering, ‘Voodoo,’ is a stripped down tribal chant that, not surprisingly, shares a similar structure with AIC’s ‘Angry Chair.’ But what separates ‘Voodoo’ from ‘Angry Chair’ is an earnest vocal, layered upon sobering acoustic drums and a steady, yet stripped down, bass guitar.  It also contains the same mysticism and exoticism ‘Moon Baby’ serves up—only tenfold. 

As a whole, Godsmack’s debut was a solid premiere, offering true rock fans a great alternative to the emo and pop-punk offerings prevalent of the day.  And 16 years later, it’s still a great album to pop into the ole CD player when you need just a little extra motivation to make it through the day.  

Steve's rating:  4 out of 5 stars.  

Watch Godsmack's live performance of 'Time Bomb' from 2000's Ozzfest in the player below: