Initial Thoughts On… Bon Iver – “Calgary”

Written by Mark Mitchell

Three years is a long time between releases. Not that Justin Vernon has been hiding away, he’s just been focusing on things other then Bon Iver. Without fail, I am always faced with trepidation regarding an album release when the amount of time has been large since the previous release. In this technological age, where instant gratification is everything, after three Bon Iver-less years will people care anymore? Will the artist have lost something? After listening to “Calgary” just once, the answer is a resounding absolutely not.

The lush orchestration that starts the song off instantly prepares you for the tranquil beauty that is the voice of Bon Iver. In my opinion, there aren’t all that many VOICES coming out of music these days. Before you start to curse me out mentally, let me explain that I am in no way suggesting that there is any lack of musical voices in current music. Plenty of songwriters, singers, musicians as a whole out there that are keeping the wheel on fire, collecting that proverbial torch passed on from generation to generation. Music is doing just fine.

What I’m saying is that there aren’t too many VOICES, singers whose voice splatters paint in all kinds of crazy, beautiful, esoteric images on the blank canvas of the mind. Singers whose voices can be recorded a capella, and not a guitar chord or piano key is needed to justify the recording. Bon Iver is one of those voices. What this song does is lull me to a dreamlike state, then take me on a journey to a place I have never been. It takes me to Calgary. Albeit not the Calgary on the map in the Midwest of Canada. No, this Calgary is in my mind. A land of snow covered mountains, leading down the sun soaked beaches where the women are beautiful, the water is calm, the view is spectacular, and all anyone can seem to give a shit about is being happy while they accept their most innate sadness.

A weird concept I agree, but it’s the juxtaposition of the emotions this song makes me feel in four minutes that is so attractive about not only this song, but about every song I’ve heard from Bon Iver. The most basic of human emotions, happiness and sadness, melded into one supreme moment of feeling truly, unequivocally alive. This is what a good song should do, and “Calgary” does it.

Initial Thoughts… A

Initial Thoughts On…Coldplay’s New Single “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”

Written By Conrad Rayden

Sing-along choruses?  Check.  Big, expansive riffs?  Check.  Arena-friendly?  Check.

Well, the essential components of a Coldplay single have all been addressed.  Although Coldplay have become one of the world’s biggest bands by following a tried and true formula, not much different than U2.  Hours after this single hit the online universe, accusations of plagiarism abounded.  Chris Martin addressed these claims and said that they were inspired by Mystic’s dance hit,  “Ritmo de la Noche”, which  sampled Allen and Anderson‘s 1976 tune, “I Go to Rio.”  Mystic’s song was used in a scene from Javier Bardem’s Oscar-nominated performance, Biutiful.  In the film, Bardem’s character goes through many a challenging phase in life, but in essence, he is seeking redemption past ways to pave the way for his kids and others in the future.  It’s a sad movie with an uplifting theme.  This only makes it natural that Chris Martin and Co. would resonate with this type of song/movie.

What kind of challenging music has Coldplay done in their past few albums?  Every single is extremely grand and would sound great as festival-closers.  They are quite comfortable moseying around in this territory, but is this what we deserve?  A grand band making grand songs that would sound right at home on an adult contemporary station nestled between Sting’s latest and Sheryl Crow’s latter era material?  Do we need another “Clocks”?  No.  Please go back to the drawing board and start over.

Initial Thoughts… C-

Initial Thoughts On…Miracle Fortress’ “Miscalculations”

Written by Mark Mitchell

Upon my first listen to “Miscalculations”, my initial reaction was that this is a good song to be coming out as summer approaches.  With the purchasing public has fickle as they are, a lot of the success of a song is based on timing. When something is released plays a large part in whether or not that song, or record has a chance to be heard by a mass quantity of people. The summer is a perfect time for the release of a song such as “Miscalculations”.

It’s one of those songs where if you are running on the treadmill, iPod shuffle hard at work, and it comes on, you will immediately lower the pace to a walk, and not even a brisk walk, a slow, plodding saunter, where you wish you were outside so you can dig your surroundings, notice a patch of flowers you might not have noticed on a path you hurriedly scurry by every day. It’s one of those songs where if you have your music playing on the beach and are in the middle of an intensely friendly game of beach volleyball, when it comes on would be the perfect time for a break in the action so you can lay on the beach and just enjoy the waves crashing into the sand.

Basically, it’s a good chill out, ice cold beer in hand, summer song. No great piece of art, nothing that when you hear it will make you clamor for more by Miracle Fortress, just something to appreciate for what it is. It’s nothing that will excite you. You will not find new musical twists that will make you repeating the track over and over again wondering just how something so original was thought up. You will not find serenely poetic lyrics that you will want to read in print just so you can grasp every word said and somehow find the meaning behind such literary genius.

This song will do none of that to you. What it will do is facilitate some summer lounging, letting your mind wander down its unique path with “Miscalculations” being the soundtrack to your thoughts as you sit back, hang out, partake in your vice, and enjoy the warm, blissful summer months. And isn’t that something we all need?

Initial Thoughts… B-

Initial Thoughts On…Radiohead’s Supercollider / The Butcher Single

Written By Conrad Rayden

Radiohead had distributed these 2 singles as a “thank you” to their fans for their continued support. It’s almost imperative that these Record Store Day singles from Radiohead be looked at in the context of their latest release, “The King of Limbs.”

TKOL was a surprise release.  Radiohead sent a note on the Sunday before its release informing their fans that an electronic copy of a new album would be dropped the following Saturday. Some common thoughts about the release from their fans: Would they redefine industry standards this time around or would they continue their “pay as want” scheme or would they even consider having a traditional release? Well, Radiohead being Radiohead, they dropped an email the Friday before the supposed release and said that the album was immediately available for download. Although not ground-breaking, a small surprise was unleashed.

Once the album had been digested, a common criticism flying around the internet centered around the brevity of the album. After clocking in at slightly less than 38 minutes over the span of 8 songs, many thought that it felt a tad too short. Conspiracy theorists jumped to message boards and claimed that the band would satiate their appetite for more and release another batch of songs in the form of another release. Unfortunately, a second release was not to be; however, these singles seemed to be a consolation prize for fans.

“Supercollider” is traditional Radiohead expanding their soundscape with some modern synth work that would’ve felt right at home on Yorke’s 2006 solo release, “The Eraser”. Then there’s “The Butcher”, which was actually recorded during TKOL sessions.  This driving percussive theme is anchored by Selway’s beats and although not syncopated like other songs on TKOL, it certainly would have fit in perfectly on the release, which brings me to several questions.

Why weren’t these songs included on TKOL if they seemingly fit in thematically with the other songs? Was it sequencing? Did the band want to achieve brevity when presenting these new sounds?  This new body of work is by no means secondary to anything on TKOL. Well, enough questions to Radiohead. I would like to say “thank you”, for your surprises and please continue to keep them coming; although I should already know this by now, the only thing that I can expect from you is the unexpected.



Initial Thoughts… On Cut Copy’s New Single “Take Me Over”

Cut.  Copy.  Paste?  It seems like as of late anytime I hear a new song, I can immediately peg a song of yore as a comprehensible influence.  New Kings of Leon = Mix Bob Seger radio hits with a tinge of Nickelback (yeah, I’m disappointed too :-/).  Here We Go Magic = tripped out Grateful Dead mixed with sprinkles of Simon & Garfunkel.  Not that this is a bad thing, I mean how many chords are there?  The answer is 60, which is a minuscule amount considering  the wealth of songs released everyday.

I digress.

Cut Copy has been releasing some of the most memorable electro-poppy dance like ya just don’t care numbers over the past few years, like “Time Stands Still”, “Out There On The Ice”, and “Lights & Music”. The public (and the corporate hogs) are starting to take notice.  Their last single, “Where I’m Going” (see my Initial Thoughts… HERE), released last Summer, was featured in RIM’s campaign for Blackberry 6.  Bloggers everywhere are feverishly posting their original material, as well as hundreds of interesting and danceable remixes.  I like “Where I’m Going”, not the biggest fan however, as I felt it was Cut Copy’s attempt at making a “hit single”, and I guess for the most part, it worked.  Surely RIM paid them a nice amount and their publishing is now probably a bit more paunchy.

Enter their latest single, “Take Me Over”, which will be a part of their February ’11 Modular Recordings release “Zonoscope”.  Instantly felt like awkwardly dancing in my chair as I glared at the interesting and artistic cover for the single (look up, weeeeeee).  The song starts off with a direct derivative from “Land Down Under”, and this is no pun intended I would assume, as they are an Australian outfit.  It’s just that the song’s beginning is EXTREMELY reminiscent of their fellow country mate’s (Men At Work) 1981 smash hit.  This I do not mind, as it may be an homage to arguably the land of Oz’ most internationally known song, or, ehm, artist for that matter (ok, MAYBE AC/DC and The Bee Gees are just a LITTLE more popular 😉

I am rambling.

There is another 80’s song that has the same exact synth major chords in it and I cannot think of it for the life of me.  If anyone knows, please let me know.  If not, it will come to me one day, one day…

Overall, this song will definitely get a lot of burn from me, sounding like inscrutable 80’s pop corn syrup / Men At Work or not.  Really looking forward to their next album, which should leak or, ehm, come out by year’s end



Initial Thoughts… On !!!’s “The Most Certain Sure”

Back in 2004, I remember reading in CMJ about a new band from Sacramento, California that had moved to NYC to brandish its unique blend of psychedelic post-disco dance rock to burgeoning hipsters.  What interested me about the group was the genre description CMJ bestowed upon them, their unique band name (!!! = “chk chk chk”, almost as if one were preparing a sawed off shot gun), and their ridiculously elongated song titles (“When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Karazzee”, “Me And Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story)”.  Needless to say, I was interested, and was not disappointed.  The summer of 2004 was “loudened up” quite a bit by their debut record, and I even turned fellow blog-ite Conrad Rayden on to them…

Flash forward to 2010, where songs from “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?” have been leaking more than a BP tanker (too soon?)  The first single, “AM/FM”, is definitely hot, make sure to check that out on Thrill Collins – Harmonic Convergence, to be released on 8/17/10.

But this “Initial Thought” is on “The Most Certain Sure”, the second song leaked by Merge Records.  Now if I were to rate this song on originality, if this were 2004, I’d give it an A, due to its scathing disco back beat and Scarface soundtrack sounding bass line.  However, this track could have easily lent itself to “Louden Up Now”, in between “When The Going Gets Tough…” and “Pardon My Freedom”.  Now this isn’t a bash on the song at all, because !!! have maintained a SOUND, which is a feat in itself.  It’s a good thing. yeahh… (you’ll know when you DL the song)

Wanna dance?  Chk.  Wanna lift your spirits?  Chk. Wanna hear just about the same thing you heard 6 years ago?  Chk.



Initial Thoughts… On Cut Copy’s New Single “Where I’m Going”

OK Cut Copy.  So your brand of Aussie Dance Rock was first introduced the “indie” world back in 2006 with “Bright Like Neon Love”, then followed up by the scorchingly brilliant “In Ghost Colours” in 2008. Poppy numbers like “Time Stands Still”, “Out There On The Ice”, and “Lights & Music” burned up the discotheque and had kids around the world enamoring over their charming diddies.  It evoked 80’s stalwarts like Dead or Alive and Kajagoogoo.

Now fast forward to the Summer of 2010.

The new single is called “Where I’m Going”, and I must say, it’s quite a departure from their earlier material.  The tambourine intro is reminiscent of something The Monkees would have done in the 60’s, followed by some early Beatles “wooooo oooo’s” and “yeah yeah yeah’s”.  Layers of vocals replace layers of synthesizers and the bridge recycles The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.  It’s a cool song, but not what I expected from one of “Dance Rock’s” finest artists.  Let’s see what the new album sounds like, scheduled for release in early 2011…