Tom Ortega II

Finding good music on the ‘net

In Net Music on January 13, 2009 at 10:08 am

Note: This post is best enjoyed with a set of headphones, a warm drink in your hand and nothing distracting going on for a good half hour.  If you’re not in those conditions, I suggest bookmarking this for later and reading it when those conditions are met.

With all the talk about how the internet is breaking the music industry’s stranglehold, I realized that I wasn’t using the internet to it’s full advantage.  To be honest, I don’t really buy much music these days period.  There are only 4 major label artists I buy religiously: Paul Simon, Dido, Coldplay and Beck.  I also buy most Prince stuff, as he self publishes now on the ‘net (but uses major labels for distribution).

However, more so than those above, I’ve found myself listening more to 2 male artists that are not signed on to major labels and 1 female that self-published her first album and is now on Sub-Pop with her second album.

I love songs that weave intricate stories that takes several listens to fully get.  I like thinking that the song is one thing then hearing a line and realizing it’s another and repeating that process over and over until the story is clear. Being a writer and a poet I’m impressed when people can tell a great story, much less one in rhyme and under a few minutes. Hence , the reason why I buy the Paul Simon and Dido.

The other thing I like is just raw emotion in songs.  I’m a pretty sensitive guy. (Did I just say that?)  I’ve been the proverbial “nice guy” all my life so that meant a lot of getting stepped on emotionally in high school and college.  Therefore, I’m sure that screwed me up somehow as I’m now drawn to the deeper almost darker side of human emotions.   Darker in the sense of the emotional pain we aren’t really allowed to show vs mass murderer dark.  One popular song that illustrates this and that you might have in your collection is “An Elderly Woman Behind the Counter of a Small Town” by Pearl Jam.  (Buy it on iTunes if you don’t have it).  I listen to an acoustic version of that song and I’ll admit, I often cry if I let the music “take me away”.

Much like writers think readers are delusional in what they “see” in the work, I’m sure I fit the bill for musicians and their music (especially “February Skies” below).  Art is like that though, personal and open to interpretation.  Now that you know more about me than you cared to know, let me talk about the music.  Knowing the stuff above will help you understand why these have been in heavy rotation the past several days.

Anthony McNeal

Make no mistake, most of Anthony’s songs are raw and natural.  I’ll often track down bootleg CDs of the demos for albums I like.  There’s something magical about the simplicity of the songwriter and his instrument that gets lost in heavy production.  I wish the recordings were just a tad better on these, but otherwise, they’re good stuff.

  1. Breathe in my sadness – This is the song that I heard on http://slicethepie.com From there I went and tracked down other pieces of his.  Here’s a taste of the lyrics:

    “You will never know how much I feel.
    You took my soul, you took my heart.
    I wish I could start all over again.
    I wish I could forget you now.”

    I tell my wife over and over, “I wish you met me when I was romantic.”  By that I mean what Anthony captures so well in the line, “You took my soul, you took my heart.”  Every girl I “loved” in my life took a little bit of my heart and sometimes, those pieces don’t grow back.

  2. I’m over you:  A song doesn’t get more heartfelt and honest than this.  From the opening proclamation:

    “I’m over you.
    It’s been a long time
    and I haven’t thought of you in awhile.”

    The story behind the song is bittersweet.  I won’t ruin it by delving into it, but it’s definitely one of the most beautiful lyrics I’ve heard in awhile.

  3. Banished from your love:  The vocals on this track are great especially when he sings these two lines the first time:

    “You’re beautiful.
    I’d sell my soul for you.”

    At times, I think I’d give away all my talents and all my abilities, just so I can write music and sing something like those two lines.  Someday, when the Mrs. and I live alone in our rocking chairs, I’m gonna buy a guitar or piano and write love songs for her.  I hope I can sing them as sweetly as Anthony sings those two lines.

  4. Stupid Girl: If you’ve ever sat alone having a smoke and sucking down drinks in self-pity over unrequitted love, then this will hit home.  And if you never experienced that yourself, Anthony will take you there and let you know what it’s like.

    “The glass is empty; my heart is full.
    I’m just another drunk coming apart over some stupid girl.”

    I haven’t had a drink in over 5 years and I haven’t had my heart broken in much longer, but this song takes me back to a time and place I’m glad I’m no longer at.  Still though, it offers a bit of comfort to know that I wasn’t alone.

Matt Morrell

Where as part of Anthony’s charm is the raw, unpolishedness of his music, Matt is the opposite.  It’s rare to find a “new” artist that can produce themselves well.  Being the songwriter, it’s tough to pull yourself away and be objective enough to let the music become what it can be vs what you think it should be.  Matt seems to do just fine.  The best part about Matt and his music is that he found me.  I twittered about Paul Simon awhile back and that came across Matt’s search.  He followed me on Twitter, and I’m sure glad he did.  His music will be in permanent rotation from now on and I can’t wait to tell everyone, “Yeah, I knew him before he was huge and famous!”  🙂

  1. I Can’t Let You Get Away – This is a fun song with catchy lyrics.

    “And I like it when you call me out.
    And I like your eyes on sunny days.
    I like the ratio of our mouths
    You know I cannot forget the taste.”

    After one listen, this song will seem old and familiar like your favorite couch or restaurant.  You’ll find yourself humming it afterward and will wonder how it got lodged so fast in your internal jukebox.

  2. Evette – The simple, innocent sounding acoustic guitar contrasts with the harsh, grim lyrics that begin with:

    “Detectives came from CSI
    to investigate the homicide”

    It then goes on to tell the backstory of Evette.  It’s a great little ditty.

  3. February Skies – I’ll admit.  I LOVE this song.  It is one of the greatest I’ve heard in a really long time. Sometimes a song just finds a place in your heart that you know was destined just for it.  Being a California boy, I’ve never experienced a true winter February like the kind described in this song. But I think these lines capture it perfect:

    “I haven’t left my room in a few days,
    I feel numb to the movement of time.”

    Now that I have a copy of Matt’s self-published CD, I can see that it’s Dean Fitzgerald playing the electric guitar and Roger Sollenberger playing acoustic guitar.  Roger’s consistent throughout the song, playing harmony.  Dean’s electric just sort of flirts with the song, almost like a backup singer that just sorta throws a noise out there to be heard and let every one know she’s there. In my head, the acoustic plays the role of the guy in the story as he’s sort of the constant throughout the whole song vs the electric representing the girl who is more spoken about vs doing any speaking. 

    My favorite part starts 2:18 into the song.  The guy (the acoustic) goes sort of quiet while the girl (the electric) gets to tell her part of the story (the song).  While she tells her part, it starts out sort of quiet and sweet.  By 2:50, they’re both sort of on equal footing, singing together.  By 3:14, she’s laying into him and he starts to get a little louder to compete.   By 3:44, there’s about 7 seconds and what I’d picture to be the peak of the fight.  Then an almost echo of the fight lingers as the electric goes real soft for a bit then the acoustic plays solo on the fade out.

Sera Cahoone

I’m no country music fan, but I love rodeos.  It’s a strange dichotomy, I know.  I blame country music artists more so than my musical tastes.  I say this because now that I’ve found Sera Cahoone, I now know what good country sounds like vs. that mainstream crap they play on the radio.  If there is more of this kind of country music, sign me up and call me a fan.

  1. Baker Lake – From the opening notes of the pedal steel guitar, you know this song is gonna take you on a journey.  These lyrics just hint about what the song’s about:

    “There’s a light in your eyes that’s burning slow
    The look on your face has been that way for days oh I don’t know why.”

    I have my idea on what the song is about, but I won’t taint your mind with my silly notions.  This song’s too good to ruin and deserves to be made personal by each listener.

  2. Only As The Day Is Long – The drum beats in the background just like life beats you down at times.  The opening lines give you a hint about the main character:

    “Slipped on my shoes and made myself look somewhat right
    Cause I can’t be at home tonight”

    Immediately you want to know what’s going on with this poor girl and Sera only hints at it with lines like:

    “Lightning strikes me only in waves
    And I know that I’m safe for now
    But I know the rest is on it’s way.”

  3. You’re Not Broken – As soon as the music starts, a wave of comfort over comes you.  It just has a soothing feeling like the shoulder of an old friend.  The strings sort of sing the pain of the person she’s talking about in the story.  The person she obviously loves and is trying to soothe, even though she knows she’s powerless in her attempts to help.  She lays it out in the lyrics:

    “You’ve been trying for so long it seems, breaking your back again.
    Oh your tired arms and your tired hands.”
    and
    “You’re just over there aching and there’s just nothing I can do.”

Well that’s all I’ve found in the past month or so.  In my free time, I’ll keep looking for some more music to share.

In the meantime, if you have some good music you’ve found on the net, drop it in the comments.  I’d love to see what you found.

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  1. Music Recommendations:

    Plumb – Blink (this is essentially a collection of modern lullaby’s)
    Plumb – Chaotic Resolve
    http://www.plumbinfo.com/

    Alice Cooper “Every Woman Has A Name” off of Dragontown

    Thou Shalt Not – “The White Beyond” (just love this album, it’s kind of 80’s electroclash but extremely poetic wording and touches that essence of being within man to desire to be more noble in our being)

    ***

    “I tell my wife over and over, “I wish you met me when I was romantic.””

    There are times I tell my wife I wish she met me when I was 17. And had not been so cruelly burned and scarred by life. It’s hard when you know you once were a better man.

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