Sunday, July 15, 2012

Song of the Summer 2012, Continued: Zac Brown, John Mayer, and Brandi Carlile

More thoughts about summertime music...

The Age of Worry, by John Mayer - Tucker pointed me towards John Mayer's new album, in particular the current hit Queen of California.

California - and the album in general - are grudgingly good, but I particularly enjoy The Age of Worry.

I saw John Mayer open for The Dixie Chicks at a concert at Nissan Pavilion in 2001; I was there with Sarah and Andrea (and Tuck, I think?).  I never became a big Mayer fan; his voice can be annoying and he seems like a bit of a tool.  That said, he's had a nice run and I did enjoy the songs on this new album.

547. Assuming that California is the state most frequently referenced in song titles (it's got to be, right?), what state is #2?

Goodbye in Her Eyes, Zac Brown Band - I read a terrific review, written by Steven Hyden on Grantland, of Zac Brown's album Uncaged.

Recently, I've started to look at the pop culture articles on Grantland, and it's becoming a good additional music-discovery resource, to add to All Songs and Slate.

Hyden's summary of Uncaged is well-written and funny:
What makes Brown tolerable (and, at his best, engaging) is his lack of pretentiousness. He sings in an endearing, every-guy tenor that can slip out of a stars-and-stripes-emboldened Southern drawl and into a half-baked Jamaican patois with relative ease. He's not a gifted vocalist, but he has the ingratiating enthusiasm of a road-tested entertainer ... 
Uncaged is "really about making people dance," Brown has said, and there are all kinds of songs for all kinds of dancers. "Jump Right In" is the one with the Caribbean accents on loan from a cruise ship commercial. "Island Song" is the one destined to be slotted between "Son of a Son of a Sailor" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise" in the happy-hour playlist at your local Margaritaville. The title track is the boogie-woogie jam-band song for Widespread Panic fans high on whiskey-scented whippets. "Goodbye in Her Eyes" and "Lance's Song" are the easygoing '70s country rock ballads, informed by the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits: 1971-75, the album legally reissued to Americans over the age of 45 every time they buy a new SUV.
I went through an Eagles phase around 10th-11th grade (this is when that's supposed to happen, right?), and I loved the reference to them. Take it Easy was great for driving, and Hotel California was a late-night sing along classic with Olav and others.

Sure enough, Goodbye in Her Eyes had me at the first listen. It has a total Eagles-easy-listening feel to it, with harmonizing on the last words of lines and beautiful strumming guitar.

548. What's going on with Uncaged's cover art?  I assume the lady is some kind of religious figure. How does she relate to the album's theme or the individual songs?

Hard Way Home, by Brandi Carlile - I had heard of Brandi Carlile before this summer, but I was never clear -- and didn't take the time to find out -- if she was the same person as Belinda Carlisle. For fans of Brandi, this attitude is probably annoying in the same way that confusion about Ryan Adams / Bryan Adams ticks off the Ryan fans. 

At any rate, I've listened to some Brandi Carlile recently, and I absolutely love Hard Way Home.

It's catchy in a causes-me-to-move-my-feet kind of way. Her voice is distinctive, and the instrumentation is simple but interesting. Plus, the lyrics are highly singable:

I sometimes lose my faith in luck
I don't know what I want to be when I grow up
I just count the rain
Wearing the floor through the boards again

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