Since I keep yakking about how I still can’t make the leap from Launch to Last.fm, seems like a dueling live blog is in order. Yes, it’s social Net radio THROWDOWN … sorry, I’ve been writing some mixed martial arts stuff lately.
Last.fm had its turn a couple of weeks ago. On to Launch …
Quick reminder — the way Launch/Yahoo works is that you rate, rate and rate again. The more music you rate, the better it drills down to your personality. That could get dull, but you can always trick it by rating something a little out of your wheelhouse.
Better Than Ezra, Good: I’m surprised that I’ve never rated Better Than Ezra, one of those bands that has never moved me to write a 15-part blog essay but is generally a pleasing listen. I have good associations with several of their songs, particularly hearing Extraordinary while walking up Park City’s main street at the 2002 Olympics on a beautiful Utah morning. These guys deserve more recognition.
Clannad, Farewell Love: 2004 release. Never heard it before. Launch tells me it’s “popular in my key genres.” I went through a brief Clannad/Celtic phase in college, well before I actually went to Ireland and saw no sign that anyone there actually listened to this stuff. Well, I shouldn’t say that with any certainty. Perhaps Ireland has a few pretentious folks who want to put on airs of being globalized … wait a minute … how could someone in Ireland pretend to have a broadened world view if he’s listening to music that’s supposedly Irish? Would that person appear more sophisticated than his fellow Irishman by listening to music that isn’t really Irish (not many synthesizers in your average old-school pub) or global? I’m confused. The song isn’t that bad, but it’s just a bit overproduced and not a bit interesting.
Elvis Costello, Alison: A legit classic. Not much else to say.
Simple MInds, Capital City: Interesting. This is another 2003 release I haven’t heard. It’s light years removed from their 80s pop heyday and their brief 90s revival (She’s a River). It’s trance-rock with a complex arrangement — brooding bass and playful keyboards. Not sure what Jim Kerr’s trying to do with the vocal, but I could listen to this again. It’s almost inverse prog-rock — a pop band stretching out musically rather than a prog band trying to distill its meanderings into a pop single.
The Cardigans, Been It: Love the band so much that I rated them 100. They’re especially charming in two respects — they’re stylistically all over the place, and they have a good dry, biting wit in their lyrics. This isn’t one of their best, but it’s not one of their occasional misfires.
Coldplay, The Hardest Part: I’m thinking that if I haven’t heard a Coldplay song a million times on the radio, it’s probably not a good Coldplay song. To my relief, it wasn’t one of their dreary offerings. They’re always going to be a melancholy band, but this one is reassuringly uptempo, a little like Speed of Sound but lacking a truly memorable hook.
Falco, Der Kommissar: Ahead of its time. Someone should do a remake with loud guitars replacing all the synths while preserving the rock-rap.
Flogging Molly, The Rare Ould Times: I rated it a 90 because I love the punk Celtic vibe, but I’m a little wary of the “ould times” here. I could very easily see a bunch of pseudo-punk assholes using this as an anti-immigration anthem, which I’m sure wasn’t their intent. What’s Left of the Flag is better, anyway.
Leona Naess, One Kind of Love: In 2000 and 2001, Leona Naess released some terrific alt-pop. No pretenses at all, just a bunch of great songs with powerful hooks and an attitude that suggested she was laid-back but wouldn’t be trampled on. In 2003, she split from Ryan Adams and released an album of slow songs with swooping strings and no reason at all to get interested, as if she were Diana Krall doing cover versions of Fiona Apple’s weakest material. Calling was the only salvageable song.
The Alarm, Strength: Plays to their … well, strengths — searing guitar and their best lyrics. Stands up better than most of their work.
Los Lobos, Peace: Wonderful song. Good acoustic blues riff repeating throughout, with a good electric guitar counterpoint. It’s a simple singalong full of respect for our basic good nature.
Triumph, Allied Forces: Not one of their best. Allied Forces of Rock and Roll? Some attempt to redoing 2112? Fight the Good Fight was much, much better.
Carbon Leaf, Paloma: One of the bands I discovered through Launch, though this is an atypical song for them. They’re close to jam-band territory, mixing a folk-rock approach with some unusual instrumentation and world-music rhythms, but they seems a little less self-indulgent. And therefore a little less ordinary.
Dubstar, Just A Girl She Said: I’ll have to break down and buy some Dubstar CDs. Their songs just aren’t available anywhere else. Stars at least has a video that I can usually track down on YouTube or somewhere else. This song is equally gorgeous, with a lilting melody over a pleasant swirl of acoustic guitars and dreamy synths. The lyrics are from the angry-feminist school, but the soft setting somehow gives them more impact.
Oasis, Little by Little: Bleah. Not much left in the well here.
But that’s not a bad hour of music. Some songs I’ve heard over and over outside Launch, some I’ve heard over and over because I used to listen to Launch every day at work, and a couple I hadn’t heard before.