Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's the music, baby...

Sometimes I'll share here CD's, books, and other things I find that's worth posting on. Here I'll write about CD's that have been infiltrating my ears and mind lately. Some have stimulated my mind, made me laugh, comforted me, encouraged, and some are just pretty damn good to rock out to for fun. But overall, these are some great CD's to play and I'd like to share them with you. Since I've been a kid, I've always had a "4 song rule" when I got a new CD. If the CD had at least 4 good songs, then it was worth buying. If not, it just flat out sucked and was a waste of money. All these CD's pass the "4 song rule".

"Greatest Hits"

For me, when I hear of the band Creed, right away I'm taken back to 1998 when I first heard the song "My Own Prison". I felt like the song was about me. The lyrics hit the core of my soul. Ever since then, I have always been intrigued by them. To mix spiritual matters, normal life experiences, love, brokenness, and at the same time to be able to rock out to it without sounding cheesy is a tough thing. But man, these guys seem to do it pretty damn well. From the opening track "Torn", the background guitars combined with Scott Stapp's vocals rip open your chest and invite you to experience the feeling of a man who is broken, "torn" as he sings, looking for hope. And from there, the album progresses on to most of their popular songs. Creed grasps life situations, without trying to sound "hip", in a way that most bands aren't able to. I know for me at least, at low points in my life, hearing a song like "My Own Prison" or "What's This Life For" remind me I'm not alone in feeling the struggle of life, and also to be reminded of a better life to come in the song "Higher". As you listen to their older songs moving on to their newer ones, you'll notice they stayed true to their core messages from the beginning : life, love, pain, loss, God, doubt, friendship, brokenness, and beauty. Fans of Creed won't be disappointed with this collection of their greatest songs. Too bad the band broke up a few years ago. What kind of songs would they be putting out now? We'll never know. But at least we have this collection of songs to remind us of one of the greatest bands ever.

Kevin Max
"The Imposter"

Now this is a singer! Think of Freddie Mercury from Queen, Sting, Morrissey, and Bono wrapped up in one, and there you have Kevin Max. No, that wouldn't do him justice, because although he resembles them, Kevin Max has established a trademark sound of his own. Add poetic lyrics on top of a variety of background sounds ranging from Brit-pop, new-wave, rock, ballads and you have a killer album. Anyway, for anyone who appreciates real creative music, you need to add this to your collection. Just hearing his voice is worth the buy (you'll have to listen to understand what I mean). Each time I listen to it I find something new that I like about it. It's like the great works of art, whether it be a painting, movie, or anything else that you love, and each time you look at it, you find something else you like that you haven't noticed before. At some parts in the album, you almost feel like you're being put in a trance by his vocals. The lyrics in the songs seem like you're being exposed to a poetry book, and taken on a visual tour of beautiful places. Lyrics covering relationships, brokenness, love, beauty, honesty, and the "imposter" that seems to be in each one of us. I read that Morrissey is one of Kevin's influences and it shows here with the song "Stay (The same as yesterday)". This album doesn't waste time with trying to sound cool and to keep up with what's hip in today's music world. It doesn't need to. This album should serve as an inspiration to other musicians out there. Kevin Max has taken his poetic voice, and shattered any mold that most musicians get shoved in these days. This is one of those albums that is hard to define in one category (although you can definitely count out "pop music"). But that's what makes it a great album. It ends with the last track, "Fade To Red (Antigalaxy)", which has a dark, mysterious feel to it, leaving you wanting to hear more. If given more exposure in the media, I could see him progressing into one of the best singers out there. Until then, the media is missing out on a great musician.

No Doubt
"The Singles 1992-2003"

If you never heard No Doubt before and just started playing their music from the mid-90's, you would know them as a Ska band. If you just tuned into them now, you would know them as a band making party hits. To see (or hear in this case) the progression in this band, then listen to "The Singles 1992-2003" album. It's a collection of their most popular hits with an added bonus of hearing them do a cover of Talk Talk's song, "It's My Life", from the 80's, which I think No Doubt's version being better. Now don't throw stones at me for that last statement. I've already been told I'm crazy for thinking that their version is better. But if you agree with me, it goes to show you have great taste in music. Anyway, if you're a lover of No Doubt's older songs, and hate their new material, this would be a good CD to have to give the newer stuff a chance. If you're a fan of the newer material, and don't like the older sound, than the same goes for you. I have to admit, I always liked their earlier sounds when they were more Ska, so when I heard some of the songs from the last few years like the club bangers "Hey Baby" or "Hella Good", I was a little hesitant. But the more I gave it a chance and let the music sink in, I grew to like it. So I had more appreciation for them being a band progressing with the changing times and culture, and creating new music to go with the times. And they're smart for that. This CD is a great compilation to testify of that.

"A Crow Left Of The Murder"

A great album from one of my favorite bands. With modern alternative music sounding like bands cloned after each other, it's refreshing to see a band like Incubus still putting out great music. I remember first being introduced to them, and getting hooked onto their music in 2000 when the songs "Pardon Me" and "Drive" came out. Since then, some of their peers in the rock scene have fallen off the map (see Limp Bizkit for example). But Incubus is still here. This album shows why. The opening track "Megalomaniac" kicks the album off nicely, as the tempo builds up in the intro, which then explodes into the song that shouts for a megalomaniac to step down off his pedestal. From that track, the album moves on to a variety of harder songs and more mellow ones like "Talk Shows On Mute", which seems to be about the society's indulgence into mind-numbing talk shows. I could be wrong about the meaning, but it doesn't change the fact that it's a great song. That's what I like about their music. You find yourself digging deeper to find the meaning, which is good for a song to provoke you that way. You won't find superficial songs on here. One example is the track "Sick Sad Little World" (which also happens to have one of the best guitar solos I've heard in a while). It sings about someone who seems to have lost hope in his life and is spiraling down. Scary.

"The world is a draught when out of love
Please come back to us
You're all the above
'I'm making a choice to be out of touch
Leave me be' he said, he said, he said
Leave me here in my Stark, raving, sick, sad, little world "

After hearing that, another great track that should have you jumping up and down dancing is "Pistola", which speeds up the tempo a bit. So over all, here's an album that has elements of rock, funk, and electronic music to combine for great listening experience.


If you weren't familiar with Matisyahu, and I played this album to you, you'd probably tell me you were hearing a Jamaican guy singing reggae. But if I told you that you were listening to a Hasidic Jewish guy singing reggae, you'd probably say that I was smoking weed with the Rastafarians. But the truth is that this is a reggae album by a Hasidic Jew named Matisyahu. I can hear the jokes right about now. Memories of Vanilla Ice and Snow probably come to mind. But throw all those misconceptions away. This guy is not a novelty act. This is great reggae music coming from, well, a Hasidic Jew! Seriously, this album is filled with spiritual themes coming from a Jewish perspective, sung in a reggae style resembling older artists like Bob Marley compared to modern dancehall artists like Sean Paul. Each track on the album has Matisyahu showcasing his smooth flow over tight beats, and a little of his beatboxing skills (see the track "Time Of Your Song"), resembling old-school rap artists like Doug E. Fresh. The backround music he sings over varies from carribean music, acoustic guitar sets, to sounds with a more urban flavor. The album starts off with the track "Fire Of Heaven / Altar Of Earth", and then cranks the tempo up with the track "Youth", and then leads you all the way to the last track "King Without A Crown", which was his breakout hit. Even if you're not into reggae, a few listens to this should have you agree that this is one creative artist who is able to cross a musical boundary like most people aren't able to. Time will tell if this opens the door for more out-of-the-box artists to break out. Overall, this is a bold album that has catchy tracks that will have you humming along (or bobbing your head) to and possibly move you to be interested in reggae.

Mat Kearney
"Nothing Left To Lose"

Here's proof that you can mix alternative, hip-hop, folk, and a little Brit-pop to combine for awesome music. "Nothing Left To Lose" is what Everlast tried to do with his album "Whitey Ford Sings The Blues". But Everlast's album didn't go any further than his hit "What It's Like". Mat Kearney is an artist to keep your eyes on, mostly because you won't find many singers who can sing, rap, and play acoustic guitar without sounding like a mess. I already hear he's already making an impact in the industry, and expect to hear more about him, if given the right exposure. Mat's vocals are similar to that of Chris Martin from Coldplay when singing (but still remaining original), especially when he breaks out in those catchy choruses with a hypnotic feel. When he's rapping, he sounds like he could be from the streets of NYC (see the track "Bullet"). Since I grew up in the NYC area and on East Coast hip-hop as a teenager, I could easily recognize when someone rhymes like they're from the city. But Mat's from Portland, so it goes to show how multi-talented he is. Not all tracks have him rapping. Some have him singing the entire song (see "Nothing Left To Lose"), some have him singing on the chorus and rapping in the verses (see "Renaissance"). The lyrics are expressed poeticically, void of any shallowness in each song. This album is a reminder that there is still great creativity out there, waiting to be found. Do yourself a favor and check it out!


jeff said...

It's funny that you included Kevin Max in this group.

I haven't heard this CD, so I won't make a judgement. I do have "Stereotype Be", and K-Max (circa late-90's DC Talk) always came off as pretentious and sort-of a wanna be Bowie, or something.

As a former christian-DJ, I cannot tell you how many times I suffered through an "All-Skate" at the local roller-rink, listening to the pathetic matcing outfit, Vanilla-Ice-wanna-be rappers, DC Talk. Then, when grunge hit, I had to suffer through the dressed-down, Nirvana-wanna-be singers, DC Talk.

Now that they've done their solo things, they each went their own directions. So, maybe I'm being hard on ol' K-Max (real name: Kevin Max Smith), and his brit-rock aspirations.

I'll check this CD out on your recommendation... okay, maybe I'll start with the iTunes song snippets, before forking over the 9.99 for the whole CD :)

[Save the mona Lisa]

Society's Elite said...

Kevin Max is probably one of the most misunderstood artists out there. I hear ya on the DC Talk thing Jeff. I think K-Max gets a lot of undeserved criticism though. I'm glad he's doing his solo thing because you really get a glimpse of how talented he is. Yeah, 'The Imposter' is definitely worth the buy. Check it out..

John Three Thirty said...

Dude, I just went and listened to all the 30-second highlight clips of the Kevin Max CD on iTunes. That's some good stuff.

Society's Elite said...

Agreed. That is one of my favorite albums.