Songs Of Summer by Sheryl Crow

I’ve been pretty derelict in my duties when it comes to the recurring elements of the blog I set out for myself this week, but nothing has suffered more than Songs Of Summer. Sorry about that. Here’s a quadruple dose of Sheryl Crow songs to try and make up for it, starting with her most recent and on the nose single for our purposes, “Summertime.”

She sure has a knack for writing summer themed pop songs you want to just hang out and listen to, doesn’t she? Speaking of which, though it might not seem like a very summery song, I distinctly watching the “If It Makes You Happy” video in 1996, hanging out in the summer and watching videos.

Speaking of which, “Every Day Is A Winding Road” was pretty much in the same boat. I remember thinking “She seems cool AND she can sing and play the guitar? WHA?!”

And finally, here’s her hit from a few summers back “Soak Up The Sun.” Damn, I just looked it up and that song came out 8 freaking years ago. I feel old.

Luckily I feel old and summer though, so I guess it’s a wash.

Songs Of Summer “Good Girls Go Bad” by Cobra Starship with Leighton Meester

I’ll be honest, I can’t remember if this track came out during last summer or not, but it’s got a hell of a summer vibe. I think I remember seeing the video before heading to work in the City last year which would place it as a 2009 summer song, but I can’t say for sure. Anyway, I’m a big fan of the power pop/dance/rock scene that includes bands like Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Plain White Ts and Cobra Starship. I have no idea if this is an actual scene or not, but to me it is.

For the longest time I didn’t know that Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester was the main female voice in the song (I only ever watched the free GG pilot thanks to iTunes and was out after several attempted rapes in just the first episode). I really dig how she sounds on the track and even though it’s a boastful party song, it’s a really fun boastful party song with great call-and-response and back-and-forth between Meester and the lead singer Gabe Saporta. Plus, the very idea of a secret club under a convenience store that’s being staked out by the cops is just cool and more complex than you get out of a lot of videos today (are they on the run at the very very end or being escorted to the cop cars?!).

Songs Of Summer “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin'” by Hanson

I get sick of pop music pretty quickly nowadays. I try watching VH1 in the morning sometimes just to see what new videos are coming out to talk about on the blog, but after several weeks of the same crap earlier this summer I had to step away. Today I watched an hour of videos, most of which I hadn’t seen, and came across this rad Hanson song (14-year-old TJ just threw up in his mouth a little bit in the past and has no idea why). It’s a great soul song by the former MMMboppers which shows off not only their solid musicianship but also their good taste in faithfully recreating the Ray Charles music shop scene from the classic Blues Brothers (and yes, that’s Weird Al playing tambourine for some reason). It’s a clean, bouncy hit, that defies you not to bob your head along to the beat.

Cool, right? Anyway, a few years back I heard one of Hanson’s then-new singles and I was pretty impressed with the guitar work which made me realize they’re actually solid musicians. This song definitely takes them out of the pop realm (at least the current pop realm) and puts them in a different musical arena that actually involves musicianship. I’m hoping this 70s soul-inspired thing really takes off because that’s some of the all time best music ever. I know it’s late in the season, but hopefully “Thinking ‘Bout Sometin'” can take the place of one of those awful songs I’ve heard a thousand times on the missus’ pop stations. Damn, you really can’t go wrong with a strong horn section!

Songs Of Summer “Magic” by B.o.B featuring Rivers Cuomo

A few weeks ago, the missus asked me if Rivers Cuomo from Weezer had been doing some songs with hip hop guys. She had a heard a song on the radio with Cuomo and a rapper she couldn’t remember the name of, but said she heard it on the radio. I said I know he’s recorded with some hip hop guys in the past, but I hadn’t heard of anything. This is a testament to how old I am. In the late 90s/early 00s you would be hard pressed to stump me on a Weezer factoid. But after the crappiness of Make Believe, a record I listened to exactly twice and couldn’t stomach anymore, I left Weezer as a current band behind and only listened to their old stuff. They’ve since come out with two albums I haven’t listened to and are apparently working on another one soon. But the song the missus was referring to isn’t a Weezer song, as we discovered tonight on the way home from Despicable Me (good flick, check it out). It’s him singing with hip hopper B.o.B who seems to be exploding all over the place this summer (his Airplanes songs was already an SOS entry this year). The track is called “Magic” and it doesn’t seem to have an official video yet, so you’ll have to settle for the above clip of the king geek up on stage at a hip hop show doing his thing and this video of a spaceship but with a better recording of the song.

I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a song involving Cuomo this much in quite a while. It actually makes me want to give Make Believe another listen (sappy pap doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it used to) and maybe even their other two CDs which I haven’t heard great things about, but not terrible things either.

Songs Of Summer “Don’t Cha” by The Pussycat Dolls

Much like “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey, “Don’t Cha” was a superb pop song I heard all the time on the radio while driving home from the Chad, Chad, Toth House after a night of Halo and Sweet Tart Whiskey late at night with many of the street lights flashing yellow. Also like that Mariah Carey track, I bought this on iTunes with a gift card, but I accidentally bought the version with Busta Rhymes which (I know this sounds crazy) makes it seem dirtier than I like. Maybe one of these days I’ll go back and pick up the version I wanted, but for now, I can make it past that one part to get to the good part.

Songs Of Summer Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Double Whammy

In all my self back patting yesterday for starting a calendar for the blog, I completely forgot to do Songs Of Summer. Here’s two Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker videos to make up for it.

This is actually the first time I’ve ever seen (or at least remember seeing) the video for “Into The Great Wide Open.” My history with Petty is actually kind of funny. My buddy Chad was in one of those BMG music clubs in high school and they were having a huge box set sale, so on a whim I had him grab me the Tom Petty Playback set, which eventually came in and blew my mind. I instantly fell in love with Petty including this song which I’m sure I heard here and there on the radio or possibly movie soundtracks. I know I reference driving when it comes to a lot of these songs, but that’s just where my mind goes when I think about summer. In the winter, driving’s no fun because you’re constantly worried about sliding off the road, having a tree branch fall on your car or some idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing crashing into you. In the summer you don’t have to worry about that (as much). Anyway, this is a great story song, with a good video (though very of-it’s-time) to go along with it that makes me think of taking a trip down Route 66.

“Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” however, I remember very vividly from 1994 when the video came out. It’s such a weirdly wonderful thing starting in a morgue and ending with Mary Jane (played by Kim Basinger) opening her eyes under water. It’s so creepy and I remember it giving me the willies when I was a kid. I was 11 at the time and hadn’t yet been exposed to the massive number of horror movies I would go on to experience, but I still compare all similar scares like that one back to “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Aside from those memory’s it’s a fun song to sing along with your friends while hanging out (or driving!) and exemplifies why Petty’s one of the better story song writers around.

Songs Of Summer “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins

Last summer I purchased Kenny Loggins’ greatest hits for basically three songs “Danger Zone,” “Footloose” and “I’m Alright” all three of which have made their way into several of my playlists, including the summer one that inspired this recurring feature on UM. Damn, Loggins sure knows how to write an awesome song for a movie doesn’t he? I’m not a huge Top Gun fan and think I’ve only ever seen it on television and never unedited (I have no idea if there’s anything cut out for content or whatever). Anyway, the two things I think of when I think of the movie are planes and shirtless man beach volleyball, which probably says something more about me than I wanted anyone to know. It’s a great soundtrack song and a great summer song. It’s impossible to not drive a little faster than normal on a bright sunny day when this track makes it’s way to the play section of your iPod.

UPDATE: This is too good not to show you guys. My buddy Justin (the guy playing the guitar) who I used to work with at Barry’s pointed me towards a performance he and some friends did of Top Gun The Subway Musical. Do yourself a favor and watch these two clips:

I especially like their interpretation of the volleyball scene. I’m not sure if it makes me want to watch the movie again or makes me want to watch the Subway Musical version again…

Songs Of Summer “Barbie Girl” by Aqua

Well, you asked for it. Actually, no one asked for anything in the comments for yesterday’s SOS installment so you get this sugary pop confection from Aqua. Much as I hated this song when I was a kid, I did appreciate how they recreated so many toys for the video. Sure they were GIRL toys, but it was still cool. Why can’t my toys have a dream house, dammit?!

Songs Of Summer “How Bizarre” by OMC

The missus is gonna hate me for those one. She absolutely hates this song. I don’t even know if we’ve ever heard it at the same time, but she’s railed against it a few times after I mentioned that I kind of dig the song. I actually keep an eye out for it every time I’m at a flea market or used CD place because I’m very curious to hear what the rest of the record sounds like. This is another one of those mid-90s videos I remember being on pretty regularly.

It’s kind of a strange song for an MTV hit. OMC is a group from New Zealand which isn’t a country known for churning out pop acts, let alone one that would get to #4 on the Billboard charts. I actually went on a trip to New Zealand around this time and don’t remember hearing about them, but it could have been a few years off. Anyway, the song has kind of a slow hip hop vibe but with Spanish-style horns thrown in. It’s a real hodgepodge. But, hey, this is the country that made “Mambo #5” a big deal too, so maybe we’re more open to other musical styles than what’s smashed into our brains thanks to MTV and pop radio.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard the song or seen the video, but I still find both of them pretty enjoyable. This is a great song to bob your head along to and think back to that summer you were allowed to ride your bike to other neighborhoods and hang out with kids you didn’t normally see, almost like an adult. Good memories.

Does anyone have a suggestion for tomorrow’s Song Of Summer? I’ve been mostly just grabbing ideas out of my memory, but I’m more than willing to take suggestions. If not, I think I’m going to start hitting shuffle on my iPod’s summer mix and see what I get.

Supergroup Showcase: Them Crooked Vultures

THEM CROOKED VULTURES
THE PLAYERS: John Paul Jones on bass (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl on drums (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and Josh Homme on guitar and lead vocals (Queens of the Stone Age, The Eagles Of Death Metal).
THE HISTORY: One of the more prolific musicians of his generation, Dave Grohl gets around. He recorded drums for Josh Homme’s band Queens Of The Stone Age’s record and also worked with John Paul Jones here and there. At some point he decided to get them together and Them Crooked Vultures was born. They recorded an album and are touring now with their sites set on a second record supposedly coming out later this year. (via their site)
OFFICIAL SITE: ThemCrookedVultures.com

One of my favorite sub genres of the supergroup idea is when the group consists of musicians from different eras (like Oysterhead). It’s interesting to see how the older and younger musicians interact and what kind of music comes out of that union. That’s the case with Them Crooked Vultures as Jones is significantly older than Grohl and Homme. It’s also interesting that two of the three members were in groups that changed the face of music. The world was different after Led Zeppelin came onto the scene and the same for Nirvana years later. Homme’s kind of the odd man out in my opinion, but he does a pretty good job of holding his own, even if some of his guitar licks do sound a little too reminiscent of previous QOTSA tracks at times (like on parts of “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I”).

Unlike many of the more recent supergroups, I actually didn’t know about Them Crooked Vultures until just before the disc came out as I had been laid off around that time and wasn’t paying much attention to the music coming out. I think that TCV’s first, self-titled record might have been the first thing I bought for myself aside from food after starting to get a pretty good freelance base going, so it’s got a special place in my heart. It also helps that the record kicks ass. The worry, of course, with a project like this is that the musicians will turn out to be great tastes that don’t taste great together (like Chickenfoot). Thankfully, these guys pull off a great sound, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the band consists of one of the greatest living bass players of all time (check out JPJ’s Zooma if you’d like to have your mind blown by what a bass can do) and Grohl who is one of the better drummers around. Even Homme who I’m far less familiar with (I bought that QOTSA record mentioned above and only liked the one single, the rest was kind of repetitive and boring), but he brings it with the vocals and guitar work.

The record is fun because it has a distinct sound with a solid rhythm section and Homme’s unique voice, but they weren’t afraid to move around within that framework and get experimental. “Gunman” sounds like a Rush song, doesn’t it? Really, the whole record is just amazing. With JPJ and Grohl locking down the rhythm (possibly the greatest living rhythm section around?) Homme gets to play with riffs and lines. The whole thing comes together better than a lot of records by established bands.

I hadn’t listened to the record for a while and put it on today and damn, it’s just great from front to back. Everyone’s in top form, the songs are amazing and there’s something really special about Grohl and Jones combining on backing vocals that adds a layer of sophistication and class to the proceedings that I can’t really explain (maybe it’s Jones’ hint of an accent). I wonder if Grohl reminds Jones of Bonzo at all.

What sets TCV apart in my mind is that they really feel like a band, not just a few dudes who got together and did a one-off. Maybe that’s because I know they’re still touring and want to make another record. They play like they’ve been together for 15 years which is impressive considering they just kind of put themselves together in a fairly short period of time. Frankly, if it was up to me, I’d make QOTSA and the Foo Fighters side projects and get as much Them Crooked Vultures music out of these guys as possible. I would love to see them in concert, maybe once they’re back in the states I can make that happen. It’s been way too long since I’ve been to a show.