Hatchet reporter Dan Stelly shares his latest musical obsessions.
Cold War Kids
After a two year hiatus, California rock band Cold War Kids recently released “Miracle Mile” in anticipation of their next album. While we’ll have to wait until April for the whole album release, I’ve been enjoying this return to the band’s soulful roots. Starting with a catchy piano riff, the song maintains a simple but vibrantly energetic feel with straightforward percussion. Frontman Nathan Willet’s soaring vocals soon enter, lifting the song’s emotions even higher. At its core, it’s a song about putting past mistakes behind and looking for new inspiration, poignant for the band’s musical return. With the energy building, Willet wails, “come up for air” repeatedly, a desperate plea for a return to the surface and perhaps a return to the band’s old style. “Miracle Mile,” with its tight guitar work and infectious groove, is an example of the Cold War Kids at their finest, and I’m expecting great things come April.
“When I Dream”
Ra Ra Riot
Much like Cold War Kids, Ra Ra Riot is back in a big way. The indie rockers just released “Beta Love,” an album that shifts the group’s style from baroque pop to synthpop while maintaining the band’s orchestral feel. “When I Dream” is one of the best examples of this mixture, a blend of synthesizer and strings with Wes Miles’ floating vocals on top. The song begins with a soft electric piano as Miles laments, “Wanna be there, could have been more, try to erase pieces own I’m hoping for.” It’s a sorrowful song, but the interchanging riffs of synthesizer and violin create a beautiful sound as the harmony grows. The band hasn’t abandoned its baroque roots in adding these electronic effects, thankfully. Although the song lacks the energetic drum fills of old, it still conveys Ra Ra Riot’s new style in a smooth, melancholy way.
“The Jody Grind”
When it comes to hard bop jazz of the 1950s and ’60s, no artist is more noted than pianist Horace Silver. His 1966 recording of “The Jody Grind” exemplifies the genre, which combines rhythm and blues with gospel and soul for a groove unlike any other. Silver opens the song with a piano introduction of the 12 bar blues, and Woody Shaw on trumpet and Tyrone Washington on tenor sax enter with the melody, a riff-based pattern that doesn’t step on Silver’s toes. Washington then takes the first solo, combining staccato notes with smooth licks for a one-of-a-kind sound. It’s a tough act to follow, but Silver’s ensuing solo is a masterpiece. He builds the excitement by switching from simple phrases and repetition to beautiful flourishes, and when the horns come in to riff behind him, the song hits its peak. This is hard bop, and this is quintessential Silver.