This episode is scheduled to air on Halloween, so I was obviously tempted to lean towards spooky songs, a la Thriller or Nightmare on My Street (yep, I’m *THAT* old). I managed to suppress those urges and pull up a slate of new releases that run the gamut of styles, but my Tune Du Jour kind of represents the theme of the day. More on that later, but first let’s dive into the music.

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Album 1: Pacific Daydream, by Weezer (10/27/17)

Now that it’s fall, it’s getting closer to sweater weather and, to fans of 90s alt-pop-rock music, that obviously means it’s a good time to listen to Weezer. Of course, I’m referring to the group’s very first single, which is unbelievably approaching its 25th anniversary. Yikes! Okay, how has the past two decades treated Rivers Cuomo and his crew of mighty melodious misfits?

It begins with MEXICAN FENDER, which begins with a ramp up to a nice broken rhythm deftly defined by an electric guitar… maybe a Fender, from, Mexico? Well, this is a fun song, though. It has hallmarks of the 90s, but it still feels completely fresh. I am literally bobbing my head. BEACH BOYS continues the frolicking romp through the proverbial sands of Southern California beachfront property. At least that’s what I assume based on context clues. I’ve never been there. Nice driving, spy-like bassline to underscore the icing on this well-layered cake. Finally, it FEELS LIKE SUMMER – even though Autumn has taken hold. I have heard this song before. It was one of the singles from this album. There are some elements of hip hop here, but mostly, this is just a fun album already. Lots of great things going on here musically. “Spiritual, not religious”. Interesting. He sounds slightly like Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) on the bridge there.

BONUS: Should this album win (and I may never again predict a winner since I’ve been so wrong), the fourth song is HAPPY HOUR, which somewhat laid back, but still maintains the undercurrents and tone of pure joy. These guys seem like they’ve not aged at all… why am I so old, then?

Album 2: Gone, by Red (10/27/17)

I remember when Red was new and I had an interview lined up with them during what was then called GMA week. They had performances lined up throughout the week and apparently the lead singer wasn’t allowed to speak because he was worried about saving his voice. (Naturally, the entire interview then revolved around me trying to get him to speak, but that’s neither here nor there). Anyway, they are a hard rock band, with modern touches reminiscent of the dichotomy found in Evanescence or Linkin Park (I know I just referenced them earlier, but this is different) except instead of rapping, they incorporate orchestral arrangements. They are also only about 10 years old, so I feel a little less aged and decrepit as I think back to those days.
Okay, this one starts with a guitar tuning exercise and a hint of what’s to come before exploding into STEP INSIDE, THE VIOLENCE. Perhaps not as dramatic as exploding makes it sound. The first minute or so is pretty low key and lacking in violence. The chorus offers some rock and roll carnage, but it’s mainly a tame song. I like the warble of the soundtrack and I actually really like the vocals when they are calm. Screaming is fine, too, but there’s a great quality to his voice when it’s controlled. STILL ALIVE builds on the energy hinted at earlier, but again, the verses are peeled away. The balance of orchestra and hard rock is something I really liked when Skillet released “Collide” and there’s a lot of that here as well as a more electronic component. It’s good. Not great, but good. Completing the trifecta is LOSING CONTROL in which you can feel the scowl on his face as he sings the opening verses. There’s a promise of a big sound, but it’s not really fulfilled. Again, it’s a good song, but I feel like, maybe, they should actually lose control somewhat. I do adore the horns there in the second verse. Very cinematic.

BONUS: This is not a cover of Switchfoot’s GONE, in case you were wondering. It’s another stadium anthem with a slight twist. Oh, that’s great! After the chorus finishes up, you get a nice breakdown. I like that quite a bit.

Album 3: Meaning of Life, by Kelly Clarkson (10/23/17)

Kelly Clarkson is YOUR American Idol… or at least she was. I’m not sure if that title was relinquished with each season, but Kelly was the first season winner and the first major success story, selling enough albums to warrant season after season of Simon’s sarcasm, the showcase of burgeoning talent, and the aural assaults of William Hung et al. Long after the series ran its course – yes, I realize it’s coming back soon – Kelly continues to impact radio and sales. So, what is her meaning of life?

Skipping the intro, her first song is the lead single, LOVE SO SOFT, which has a nice off-beat and some clapping and leaves all the room necessary to show off her big voice. Heavy bass throughout, though and she doesn’t really open up and let loose on the vocal much. There are a few hints of what’s under the hood, like a Ferrari revving its engine in a traffic jam. Fun pop song. HEAT comes in at song number two and there’s an old soul song that this reminds me of. I’m at a loss though – I think it has a lot to do with that vocal slide every time she says “babe”. So, this is pop music, but it’s much more mature than what you normally would hear on the radio. There are more developed soundtracks here and, ironically enough, less “mature” lyrics. Instead of blabbering about how hot they are, she’s actually talking about real relationships and such. I can appreciate that. Speaking of mature, MEANING OF LIFE (roll credits) has a real nice combination of jazz and choir elements to it. I really enjoy this arrangement and her vocals are so great. I’m not one to spend a lot of time on pop albums, but I’m glad I took this one in.

BONUS: MOVE YOU sits on a pretty straight rhythm and she’s pretty controlled on the vocal. There’s nothing spectacular about the verses, but I feel some hints that she’s going to take off with a soaring vocal at some point. That would be a great way to “move [us] like that”. Maybe not. The sound does fill out towards the end and she does open a little bit. It’s a pretty good album.

Harding has worked, performed, and written with Cee Lo Green amongst others and brings a soulful R&B sound with a twist on his newest album with which this song shares a title. It’s a nice change of pace. The strings offer an ominous tone to the track and the vocal layers a 70s vibe atop a soundtrack that balances the standards and modern sensibilities.

peace… love… bdg…