Ocean Avenue - Yellowcard
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #15 (May 2004) buy it!
Members of Yellowcard met in high school in Jacksonville, Florida. On the title track from the Ocean Avenue CD, Yellowcard remind me of The Ataris, who had hits last year with squeaky clean, straight ahead rockers. Ocean Avenue is fast and well played but it doesn't have a lot of edge. Ocean Avenue also resembles songs by emo kings Jimmy Eat World, especially A Praise Chorus. But in comparison, Jimmy Eat World's genial raveups are very substantial. Ryan Key doesn't seem like a great singer but he does an appealing, upbeat vocal, with a bit of yearning, that fits with Ocean Avenue's perky, very youthful pop. Longineu Parsons' drumming maintains an energetic, quick pace but Ocean Avenue still feels lightweight. Ocean Avenue's only distinctive touch is Sean Mackin's frantic violin playing, which gives the song a nice, dramatic finish. Otherwise, Ocean Avenue is likable but a bit innocuous. Like The Ataris' In This Diary, Ocean Avenue shows a nostalgic sense that's a bit odd for a singer who's only in his mid 20s and seems younger. He was the one who told her "this was goodbye" when she beg him not to leave. Still, Key longs for a teenage relationship where he used to stay up all night and "sit and talk with you." He tells himself that if he could "find you now", "things would get better."
Oh - Dave Matthews
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #35 (June 2004) buy it!
The first two singles from Dave Matthews' Some Devil solo CD made a good argument that Matthews should never work without the band that has ably supported him for more than a decade. Gravedigger is ridiculously pretentious and missed the Dave Matthews Band's light touch. Save Me, Some Devil's second single was better but still left the impression that Matthews' self satisfied doodling with buddy Trey Anastasio is less appealing than Matthews' better DMB music. Oh is Some Devil's best single. It's a reminder that, regardless of who he works with, Matthews can create an endearing, simple ballad. Oh is short and fairly insubstantial. It keeps circling back to the same hooks. But Oh is also sweet and likable. It has Crash Into Me's charming understatement. Matthews does an easy, sincere vocal over a warm, basic melody. On Oh Matthews sings that, even when the world is blowing up or caving in, the memory of someone he loves "oh so well" makes things OK.
On The Roof Again - Eve 6
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #24 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
On The Roof Again is the second chart hit from Eve 6's Horrorscope CD. Keyboards and Jon Siebels' crunching guitar chords create an appropriately edgy feel for this tale of a young man easily pushed to desperation by romantic problems. As on much of Horrorscope, the band's ability to create exciting music is underminded by dopey, often offensive lyrics and unappealing great vocals. Max Collins strangely shows his sympathy for the jumper by repeatedly singing "your heinous highness broke her hymen."
One Call Away - Chingy
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #21 (April 2004) buy it!
St. Louis' Howard "Chingy" Bailey seems cartoonish and insubstantial but his Jackpot CD is one of the biggest hits of the last year. One Call Away is Chingy's third hit. A lot of the credit for Chingy's success should go to Alonzo Lee and Shamar Daugherty, also known as Trak Starz. Trak Starz(not to be confused with Trackboyz, who also produced music by St. Louis artists including Nelly's Air Force Ones and J-Kwon's Tipsy) wrote and produced most of the songs on Jackpot, including Right Thurr and One Call Away. On One Call Away, they use Chingy the way he should be used, as a colorful, goofy supporting player. One Call Away's main appeal is its catchy chorus, with Jason "J. Weav" Weaver suavely singing "you can call if you wanna bump over me." Trak Starz created a sound that's smooth, with a steady hand clap beat and easy guitar sound, but also has good texture with a bass drum sound and percussion that sounds like a woodpecker pecking. Chingy roams around the verses in an entertaining, innocuous way, sounding like Eminem in a clowning mode. Most of One Call Away's lyric is surprisingly sweet. Chingy describes meeting a woman in a bank, starting a relationship slowly and respectfully and not being afraid to show affection in front of his homeboys. The lyric suddenly turns stupid on the third verse as Chingy announces that he's a player, offers her a "puff on a blunt" and "a pint of Hen" and threatens "if you got an attitude, I could treat you like a hoe." Just as suddenly, he returns to the song's general theme of being the guy who's there for her, rapping "just be true and there's nothing I won't do for ya." Chingy's contribution is mixed but mostly appealing. He largely fills space until One Call Away gets back to the chorus' charming hook.
One Horse Town - The Thrills
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #47 (March 2004) buy it!
One Horse Town is a terrific, uplifting song from The Thrills' rich, very likable So Much For The City CD. My family has been listening and dancing to One Horse Town for months. My two year old daughter Isabel has constructed a back story that includes a visit for the lonely one horse from a horse friend. So Much For The City was one of 2003's delights. A couple songs have a heavy, serious sound that doesn't fit the band's personality but most of So Much For The City is buoyant fun. The Thrills, a band from Dublin, Ireland, are apparently partly sparked by an intoxicating vision of the U.S. that's based both on images from popular culture and personal experience(the band lived for a while in San Diego). The influence of the U.S. and its music can be seen in Conor Deasy's lyrics, which have five songs based in specified California towns and another one comparing a woman's love to Las Vegas, and in the use of country music instruments like banjo and steel guitar and arrangements which evoke The Beach Boys and Phil Spector. The Beach Boys/Spector comparison is particularly apt on One Horse Town which, with chimes, banjo and piano, has a full, layered sound. One Horse Town's horns and driving drums also give it the exhilarating feel of a Motown classic. One Horse Town's positivity, jangly guitar, tambourine and big "aah" backing vocals also bring to mind 60s California bands like The Mamas & The Papas and The Byrds. The sweet warmth of The Thrills' music starts with Deasy's singing and writing. Deasy's vocal is a fragile, raw quaver that sounds like that of Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis or The Undertones' Feargal Sharkey. Deasy's wary voice is thin but charmingly unassuming. Deasy's lyrics often have an edge that's surprising, given the music's benign surface. On One Horse Town, Deasy regrets having settled down when everyone else was sleeping around and, feeling that his "baby" is "preying on a tender heart", decides to leave.
One Last Breath - Creed
Weeks on Chart: 33 Peak: #1 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
I should know by now not to underestimate Creed. I figured, after My Sacrifice fell off the chart quicker than the hits from Creed's Human Clay's CD, that people might be getting tired of Creed's bloated, ultraserious sound. In fact, while it won't have Higher or With Arms Wide Open's longevity, One Last Breath is Creed's first #1 song. Radio still loves their generic, soaring, meaningful sounding music. On One Last Breath, Scott Stapp admits he's screwed up and doesn't show the self righteous arrogance he has on previous hits. His clenched fist intensity is still way too much. One Last Breath, the third chart hit from the Weathered CD, starts O.K. Stapp sings with just a quiet guitar and then a subdued guitar, drums and strings. Inevitably, the sound intensifies and any subtlety is bludgeoned by heavy rock guitars and drums and Stapp's pained howl. Stapp uses his big, melodramatic imagery to say how bad life's become. He's close to the edge and "I think I'm falling." He's cried out to heaven "save me" but this time he's apparently looking for help from a woman not God.
One Man Army - Our Lady Peace
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #16 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
One Man Army is from the Canadian band's 3rd CD, Happiness...Is Not a Fish You Can Catch. The band has developed a fairly decent catalog of sincerely delivered songs. Starseed from their debut, Naveed, was a good, exciting rocker. The title track from their last record, Clumsy, was genuinely moving. One Man Army has the band's trademark intense sound and is interesting musically, starting with a verse where Raine Maida's singing is only accompanied by a driving, shifting beat. The band doesn't always grab you but One Man Army shows Our Lady Peace's skill at creating an interesting, mysterious atmosphere.
One Step Closer - Linkin Park
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: #14 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
One Step Closer is from the Hybrid Theory CD. Like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, Linkin Park are an angry band who mix a hip hop sensibility to their heavy metal but they're even less appealing than those bands. The sound is nasty with yelled vocals and harsh guitar chords. One Step Closer is about another young white guy so troubled that he "can't take this anymore." It's not specified, but the lyrics probably refer to a woman: "everything you say to me, takes me one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break."
One Thing - Finger Eleven
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #26 (July 2004) buy it!
Finger Eleven are a band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Thanks to modern rock radio play, One Thing spent more than three months on the top 50 at the beginning of the year. One Thing has now found its natural home at pop radio. My opinion of One Thing hasn't improved since I wrote about in January. Finger Eleven usually play alt-metal. They made their self titled third record with Disturbed/Downing Pool/Earshot producer Johnny K. One Thing, a "hold up your lighters" style big rock ballad, sounds like a song cynically created with an eye on the pop charts. I'm not a fan of rock ballads but I concede that One Thing is effectively constructed. With a spare sound of spooky synths, simple whacked drums and sensitive acoustic guitar, One Thing has the emotional power that sells. One Thing is very familiar resembling, among others, Poison's Every Rose Has Its Thorn. It's also a bit drab. Scott Anderson's earnest singing is a bit boring. He overdoes the sincerity, crossing the line from sincere to overly emotive. People love mushy, ultraserious rock ballads. The sappy One Thing isn't the worst but it is pretty lame. On One Thing, Anderson apparently sings that he wants to be with someone but he's not ready yet to change his life.
The One - Backstreet Boys
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #18 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
The buzz that accompanied Dave Grohl's first post-Nirvana release is long gone. Grohl's band have become modern rock journeymen of sorts, making three strong, if unremarkable, records and numerous good singles that show Grohl's ability to make music that's appealingly poppy but still rocks. The One, the second hit from the Orange County soundtrack, is short and a little dopey. It's even more disposable than most Foo singles but it's tight, catchy and hard to resist. The One is simple but effectively concise with thumping verses and a chorus with guitars and Grohl's voice howling. On The One, Grohl realizes the mistake of going back to an old flame but still appreciates the pleasures she offers.
Only God Knows Why - Kid Rock
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #4 (April 2000) buy it!
While he usually comes across as a smart ass narcissist, on Only God Knows Why from his Devil Without a Cause CD, Kid Rock wants sympathy for his pain and the fact that people don't understand him. I would have thought Kid Rock would be embarrassed to sing a ballad about trying to find himself but I guess we already know he's shameless. The model for Only God Knows Why seems to be one of Pearl Jam's soaring, personal ballads but Kid Rock doesn't have Eddie Vedder's chops. He sounds best when his voice is distorted.
Only Time - Enya
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #14 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Besides providing vaguely mystical sounding background music for commercials, soothing is what Enya's ultra-lite music does best. So it's not surprising that some have found that in a troubled time Only Time, from Enya's A Day Without Rain CD, has therapeutic qualities. Rather than being about time healing, Only Time's message is that the future is unpredictable so there's no point worrying about it. Only Time is potentially sleep inducing elevator music but it's also a striking, delicately gauzy example of Enya's usual ethereal formula of filtered voices, layered keyboards and polite, programmed beat.
Oops! . . . I Did It Again - Britney Spears
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #24 (June 2000) buy it!
The title track from Spears' new CD is nearly a remake of Baby One More Time. It's another piece of pleasant, light dancable synth pop with a little bit of a hard edge. Spears still shows no particular signs of being much of a singer. The lyrics perpetuate the image of Spears being both childlike and a mature temptress as she sings "I'm not that innocent." Oops is about teasing a boy, getting lost in the game and playing with his heart, making him believe they're more than just friends. There's nothing wrong with it except for a lack of depth or substance the preteens are unlikely to mind.
Oops(Oh My) - Tweet
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #39 (May 2002) buy it!
Oops is from the Southern Hummingbird CD by Timbaland/Missy Elliot protégé Tweet. Oops got attention because of its teasing lyrics but it also has a striking sound. Oops' repeated horn sample and woody percussive beat give it a swirling, vaguely exotic, though mechanical, feel similar to that of some of Elliott's work. The music matches Oops' mysterious theme. Oops is too cute and coy in revealing that Tweet's pleasure comes from masturbating alone but the tale of enjoying her body is undeniably sexy. Tweet's vocal is appropriately cool and confident.
Optimistic - Radiohead
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #17 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
Radiohead's new Kid A CD is interesting and annoying, ambitious and self indulgent. The songs are often spacy and atmospheric and don't really go anywhere but Optimistic is fairly linear. It's a little like OK Computer's Paranoid Android with a little more juice. Unlike some of the Kid A songs, which have no guitar, Optimistic has a good direct, scratchy Jonny Greenwood guitar line which keeps the song moving. It also gets good texture from forboding percussion. Thom Yorke's vocals are compellingly tortured and not too idiosyncratic. Yorke starts the song with gloomy images of vultures circling and big fish eating little ones and evokes a unconcerned world. Presumably ironically, Yorke tells us it's good enough if you do the "best you can."
Ordinary Day - Vanessa Carlton
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #33 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Ordinary Day is the second single from Vanessa Carlton's Be Not Nobody CD. It's nice that young girls have at least three people making music for them that's not totally awful. They can choose between hip, popular Avril Lavigne, sincere, slightly arty Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, the smart, confident nerd who never misses a piano lesson. I guess I credit the many kids who have picked Carlton's mildly ambitious music but her popularity is also a little strange to me. At the risk of using a critical cliche, Ordinary Day is quite ordinary. There's not much to it except a sense of artistic pretention. Carlton's interesting piano playing plays a less prominent role than on A Thousand Miles. Producer Ron Fair overdoes the strings as if he's orchestrating a third rate production of Oklahoma. I guess the kids feel like that liking a song like Ordinary Day means they're listening to something more serious and important. The most appealing thing about Ordinary Day is Carlton's vocal and persona. She has Tori Amos' honesty without Amos' affectations and with an appealing youthful openness. The lyrics are a sweet story of a boy "looking to the sky" who "asked if I would come along".
Original Prankster - The Offspring
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #4 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Original Prankster is from The Offspring's new Conspiracy Of One CD. Unlike the song's quite stupid video, the song doesn't really have pranks in it, just some fairly standard punk rock type promises to bust out or knock down walls. It doesn't have the same lyrical hook but Original Prankster has the same musical elements that made Americana's Pretty Fly(For a White Guy) irresistable. It has a loose mood, aided by goofy aural effects like some guy saying "you can do it." Dexter Holland's wail gives the Offspring a punk sensibility. Noodles' guitar gives the song rock heft and it also has a good dance beat. Redman adds rap cred by intoning the title's allusion to Ice-T and others who claim to be the original gangster. Much of the Offspring's music sounds alike and it's not too substantial but it has undeniable energy.
The Other Side - David Gray
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #41 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Its to his credit that David Gray hasnt tried to follow the huge, surprising success of his White Ladder CD and the Babylon single with a big, flashy sound. The Other Side, from Grays A New Day At Midnight CD, doesnt veer from White Ladders basic, minimal sound. Large portions of The Other Side are just Grays subdued voice and his simple piano. Even when the drum machine beat comes in, the sound remains restrained. The downbeat sound matches The Other Sides sad lyric. The Other Side, like much of White Ladder, is about romantic disappointment. Admitting that I still dont know what love is, Gray is painfully self critical. Hes unable to be courageous and offer you my hand, pull you up onto dry land, when all I got is sinking sand. Grays unsentimentalized melancholy is somewhat fascinating and The Other Side maintains a perverse integrity by being an intentionally uncommercial single. But The Other Side is basically uninteresting and a little drab. It certainly doesnt do anything to change the perception of Gray as a one hit wonder.
Otherside - Red Hot Chili Pepper
Weeks on Chart: 27 Peak: #1 (April 2000) buy it!
After the mindless diversion of Around the World, the third hit from the Californication CD returns to the more reflective tone of Scar Tissue. However, Otherside, apparently about contemplating joining a dead friend, has a sadder, more agitated tone. The music is restrained with a quiet, insistent tone coming mostly from bass and drums until guitars explode at the end. The Chili Peppers' new signs of maturity are generally welcome though Otherside risks the danger that too much maturity can be a little boring.
Out Of Control - Hoobastank
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #22 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Out Of Control is from Hoobastank's The Reason CD. Hoobastank found success with Crawling In The Dark, a rocking, good natured song from their self titled CD that found its way into the background music of a lot of sports highlight films and extreme sports events. I've found their subsequent singles much less enjoyable. On Out Of Control, the way that singer Doug Robb works his way into a frenzy is impressive but, since there are so many intense rock singers around these days, his wailing isn't particularly notable. Robb's anger is so extreme that it's kind of silly. Moving from a gallop on the verse to a full, tight sound on the chorus, Dan Estrin's guitar provides decent support. But while Robb ranges from perturbed to crazed, he's never compelling. Out Of Control is hard but not interesting or enjoyable. Out Of Control is yet another rock song where a young guy shrieks about how he's taken advantage of and abused. Presumably referring to a woman, Robb and Estrin's song complains that "I've done everything as you say" and "followed your rules without question" but she hasn't been there for him and has left him "spinning out of control." Out Of Control would be at least a little more interesting if it told us what rules he followed, how she left him out of control and why he doesn't get out of the relationship.
Out Of My Head - Fastball
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #18 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
The third single from Fastball's All The Pain Money Can Buy is more amiable pop from the pleasantly unassuming band. With every single, they get a little less ambitious but retain their likeable charm. The Way was their most interesting, a good rocker, though it seemed less interesting after repeated listenings. Fire Escape was an enjoyable, smooth midtempo song. Out of My Head reminds me of the Cheers TV theme, another enjoyable, low key song sung by a not great singer. Its lyrics, about a man looking back to see if he could have done something different to make a relationship work, have the band's humble charm.
The Outsider - A Perfect Circle
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #10 (May 2004) buy it!
It's difficult for me to imagine listening to an entire Maynard James Keenan CD in one sitting. It's hard for me to make it through each dark song of thick guitars, booming drums and Keenan's howling and raging. The Outsider isn't A Perfect Circle's best song but it's another example why, with APC and Tool, Keenan is one of the best of the many angry young white rock guys. Keenan and APC co-founder Billy Howerdell, who produced and wrote The Outsider, know how to create a dramatic sound. The music gains force by moving slowly, with layers of guitars in place all along the way. Keenan's vocal warily moves forward in irregular spurts, as if he's trying to keep things in but his rage forces him to blurt things out and then work himself into a frenzy. Band member Josh Freese, who's also a very in demand studio drummer for everyone from Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson to The Offspring and Good Charlotte, heightens The Outsider's tension with his pounding. The Outsider has a potent, focused sound, which loses appeal only because we've heard it before. The Outsider's lyric is more problematic. The targets of Keenan's rage are usually better chosen than on the nasty, angry Outsider, where Keenan seems more mean than troubled. It can be frustrating to deal with a depressed person who seems to talk about suicide just to get attention but The Outsider crosses the line from frustration to callousness. Keenan tells a girlfriend, who's given in to her "reckless dark desires", that he doesn't "wanna watch you" "throw it away like this." Just to make it clear that "I'm over this", he calls her a medicated, "narcissistic drama queen" and a "suicidal imbecile." Keenan finishes The Outsider with the sweet thought: "if you choose to pull the trigger, should your drama prove sincere, do it somewhere far away from here."
Outside - Aaron Lewis and Fred Durst
Weeks on Chart: 31 Peak: #10 (March 2001) buy it!
Now the new Staind CD is out, rock radio, after playing the 1999 Family Values Tour live version of Outside for more than five months, is playing the Break The Cycle version. There's not much difference. The studio mix adds a touch of keyboards and, unsurprisingly for the genre, electric guitars come in on the chorus. Outside is still mostly Aaron Lewis' acoustic and his intense vocal. As usual, Lewis' singing is appealingly heartfelt as he sings about his troubled mind but he's also very serious and a little overwrought. Outside is about the guy who torments him being as screwed up inside as he is.
Over My Head - Lit
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #44 (July 2000) buy it!
Like My Own Worst Enemy and Zip Lock from their Place In the Sun, this song from the Titan A.E soundtrack is fast, mindless rock fun. A. Jay Popoff sings about an unnamed they(maybe the music biz) who want to build him up so they can tear him down and then about being over his head in a relationship with a woman. The music is extremely simple. By the end, Lit doesn't seem to know what to do, so they just repeated the chorus again in different key.
Overcome - Live
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #31 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
VH1 used Overcome, from Live's V CD, as the music for a video depicting the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster. With its serious piano, heavy strings and Ed Kowalcyzk's intense vocals, Overcome would ordinarily seem overdone. In the past, Kowalcyzk's use of religious and water imagery has often been heavy handed and he uses such images again on Overcome. But Live's big, emotional, open hearted music, like U2's, has seemed appropriate for a time of healing. Overcome has a stark, mournful sound. After stating "the world is bleeding", the lyrics refer to an escape from a troubled society via a "beautiful drowning."