Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Little Slice

Although I write my reviews in exchange for a chance to check out new music and books, I have a friend who reviews plays and music in exchange for pay. As a result, we each tend to get very different albums. We were discussing our current projects the other night, when I mentioned that I was about to review the new Five For Fighting album Slice.

His response? "I'm so sorry."

We have disparate tastes in music, but I will admit that his comment slightly colored my expectations for the album. I'd never heard anything by Five For Fighting before: would I hate their music?

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Right from the first track (Slice) I was drawn in by the music. In fact, the eponymous track is my favorite song on the album. Slice blends allusions to some of my favorite older songs with references to current culture, and the music perfectly matches this melding.
There was a time a long, long time ago
Chevys and levees played on the radio
No cell phones, just 20,000 lights
Swaying on a saturday night alright

Can you imagine that slice of time
Rock and roll was young
People stood in line
To hear music that played into their lives
That you could carry till the day you die

Hey man sing me a song
When we were everyone
We were more than just a slice of American Pie

Have you read my blog today
300 million little USA's
Your doorstep is just a click away
We'll get together one of these days

One line I read on the Five For Fighting website kept coming to mind as I enjoyed Slice, and I think it sums up the feeling you get from listening to the album:

If every album provides snapshots of where an artist's mind and heart is at the moment, Slice, the latest offering from John Ondrasik (aka Five for Fighting), is a collection of digital jpegs and faded Polaroids.

This description works so well because, throughout Slice, I appreciated the balance between "new" and "old" sounds - many of the tracks evoke older music that I love, but without sounding like a copy. For example, the track Love Can't Change the Weather pays homage to classic R&B music.

If you're interested in the album, there is a moving video of Five For Fighting's Changes on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. John Ondrasik can also be found on Twitter.

Thanks, One2One Network, for sending me this album to review!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brandi Carlile

I popped in the new Brandi Carlile album, "Give Up The Ghost", on the way home after our Halloween festivities. Two thoughts sprang immediately to mind:

Thought #1: "Give Up The Ghost" is amazing driving music. This is especially true for tracks such as Looking Out, Dying Day, Dreams, and Caroline. These songs are upbeat and catchy; I wished I'd already known the lyrics, because they really make you want to sing along. Preferably with the windows down and a long stretch of highway ahead. I almost wanted the drive home to be longer, as I would gladly have listened to the album a second and third time right in a row.

Thought #2: Brandi Carlile has a beautiful voice. While I wouldn't use words like "refined" and "polished" to describe her voice, I also don't think that sort of sound would have worked on this album. Instead, Carlile's voice makes me feel that she's a very down-to-earth woman -- and that's she's having a great time singing her songs. It felt like she put part of herself into every track, from the opening Looking Out to the moving Before It Breaks, and through the final song, Oh Dear.

If I may give a piece of advice: you really need to check out Brandi Carlile's music! Amazon has some brief clips from "Give Up The Ghost" that I believe will give you a pretty good feel for her album.

If you'd like to find out more, Brandi Carlile can be found at and on Facebook.

Thank you, One2One Network! This is my favorite album I've received to review this year.