This week on “Single Play,” I’ve got four songs I think you’ll enjoy. Okay, maybe you won’t enjoy them all, but perhaps there’s enough stylistic variety to keep you intrigued. Oh, and for those new to this column, welcome!
In my former professional life, I worked in radio for a couple of decades. And even though I survived many of the transitions and changes in the industry for as long as I did, one thing that I used to love about radio was the way in which good music programmers were tastemakers. These were the guys and gals who would take a listen to a portion of the records that were sent to the station. More often than not, the vast majority of them weren’t that good, but every now and then, a gem would come in, it would get some airplay, possibly take off and maybe, if the stars really aligned, would be a hit. Some folks got very good at judging the radio friendliness of a song by dropping the needle on the intro, the hook, and the bridge. Of course, sometimes they were dead wrong on a song, but other times they could feel a hit by such a short listen. Plus, in the days of payola, it helped if a record rep slipped some cash or coke in the sleeve of the record, or “found” the keys to “your BMW” in the parking lot — and was just “retuning them.”
But when I was working in the radio industry, the stations I primarily worked for were so small that if any “Indies” (a person paid by a record label to promote a song and get it radio airplay) were greasing the palms of the program directors, it wasn’t much since the stations has a limited reach and weren’t part of big corporate radio.
So all this is a roundabout way of saying that what you’re getting here is free of payola and major label influence (You’re probably saying: “You fool! Take the cash, the coke, and the cars!” Maybe I would, but no one is knocking on my office door with any such proffers.) Now certainly there are bands who are on major labels that will show up in the is column. But it’s not because someone greased my palm. For the most part, this is just me dropping the proverbial needle on a track and hearing something that strikes me as good. Also, like I wrote in the first post, if you have suggestions on songs that you think I should hear, please leave them in the comments section.
Okay, on with the show!
If you look on the band’s Facebook page, they bill themselves as an “indiepop” band from the Netherlands. Well, for the most part, the indiepop label fits, but this (sort of) title track is more prog than pop. First off, the length of the song clocks in at just over nine minutes. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a pop song (indie or otherwise) that was longer than 4 1/2 minutes. But here comes Moss to shatter that barrier, I suppose. “Ornament” starts out fairly conventional, but then transitions into a hypnotic groove that doesn’t let up ’til…well the end of the song. As of this post, Moss is scheduled to play only a couple of dates in Germany in January and April (If you want to see them live), but you can stream the entire album on their website if you want to hear the full panoply of songs they’ve recorded.
Back in 2008 when “Somewhere Around Midnight” made its debut on radio, I wasn’t too taken by the song. But, like some songs, it grew on me upon repeated listens, and became a favorite. I know it was a big hit on some stations that play Adult Album Alternative music (for me, that station is KFOG in San Francisco). Well, the lead single from their forthcoming album (the third in their arsenal) is “Timeless.” The song features the same kind of layered and moody quality the band is known for, but includes quite an anthemic chorus. Unfortunately, the SoundCloud stream won’t allow embedding, so if you’d like to hear the song, you’ll just have to click link above.
The Chaw are a San Francisco Bay Area band who are more local to me than most who call the Bay Area home. You see, the members are from Contra Costa County (where I reside), and they are not a death metal band or rap act — something of a rarity in my neck of the woods it seems. The Chaw’s music is more psychedelic and atmospheric than pop, but this song (and the single from their album) is able to fold in the sounds they’ve developed into a pop song structure that will hook you pretty quickly. I’m pretty partial to this tune (naturally, since I’m featuring it) for its western-noir style, the expansive guitar, deep vocals, and inventive drumming. Sure music is subjective, but do yourself a favor and give “The Feud” a few spins. It’ll get in your head and you’ll be singing the chorus at random times throughout the day.
The Staves are a major label act from the U.K. who have written a very pretty song. Lyrically, “Mexico” is about a pained relationship, but the trio harmonizes so well that it’s difficult (for me, at least) to be drawn into the relationship drama in the lyrics. The band toured with The Civil Wars last year, so their fan base in the U.S. has grown with more stateside touring. “Mexico,” is actually a couple of years old, but because certain songs and groups sometimes take time (years, it seems) to make their way across the pond, The Staves are only now getting some attention here. I would love be one of those music writers who spotted The Staves years ago, but because there’s so much music out there, and the way it’s promoted is fairly fractured, it’s difficult to know all that’s out there. Nevertheless, better late than never. And for those who like folky songs with great harmonies, you’ll certainly warm up to “Mexico” by The Staves very quickly.