[This post-on-demand is dedicated to Cara, who correctly guessed the movie reference last week.]
Here at PBB, we try to keep you lovely readers up to date on what's happening in music, especially free music online. But sometimes we don't provide extensive explanations about why we recommend certain artists or albums. The following is a sampling of such justifications (band website links on the right):
Ben Folds (Five): Think of Billy Joel, but with a playfully sarcastic attitude and a fouler mouth. And he's a better pianist. And more fun. And cooler. Ben Folds broke onto "the scene," as the kids call it, as part of the three-piece band "Ben Folds Five." The BFF sound was rather unique at the time: piano, bass, and drums. Ben Folds quickly proved that no guitar is needed to produce raucous, entertaining ballad-rock, and each of his songs told a story about the human condition. Often irreverent and never dull, Folds and "five" produced three studio albums and one "b-sides/live" album before calling it quits. Ben Folds went on, with a new band, to record two studio albums and a live album (as well as several EPs).
Why You Should Care: Ben Folds can craft compelling lyrics, and his piano-playing is amazing. If you don't mind the bad language (which can get a little heavy on a few tracks), it's totally worth your time and money. I own several albums, including all three solo projects, and one live concert DVD. I like him that much.
Waterdeep: This band is, at its core, Don and Lori Chaffer, who have been playing music together for years. Though some of the band members around them have been replaced, they are at the heart of this guitar-driven folk-rock band. The music of Waterdeep is deeply infused with spiritual truth and real-life emotion. They don't shy away from the brokenness of human existence or the problem of pain and loss, and how believers in Christ respond to life at its worst. Waterdeep's lyrics are always poetic and heartfelt, and the music is fantastic, particularly Don's guitar work. The band has been performing on-again, off-again for the past few years, due mainly to the lack of money to be made as an indie rocker of the Christian persuasion.
Why You Should Care: The Chaffers are great musicians and lyricists, and they're really cool people, too. The music is uplifting and spiritually deep. I was first introduced to Waterdeep's music in college, and have been a big fan ever since. Outside of U2 or Counting Crows, Waterdeep is my favorite band ever.
Over the Rhine: I've only known about Over the Rhine for a few years, but they're one of those bands that you think, "Why did it take me so long to find you?" Over the Rhine is the musical duo Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, who've been playing together for over 15 years. My experience, aside from a few downloaded tracks, is limited to their 2003 double-album release, "Ohio," which was stunning in its simplicity. Almost all of the album is made up of Karin's vocals and Linford's music, which are compelling and haunting. There are veins of folk and blues in this album that's as honest and down-to-earth as the midwestern state that shares its name.
Why You Should Care: Because artists as original and talented as these should not be ignored.
Hard-Fi: This Brit-rock band just released their first album, "Stars of CC-TV," this year, and I can't stop listening to it. The debut album isn't as lyrically poignant as other rock bands (or any of the other artists mentioned here), but they have an infectious energy reminiscent of The Killers or the Strokes. The album's one slow song, "Move On Now," will remind listeners of other British balladeers like Keane, Aqualung, and James Blunt. But that's the only time the album stops to catch its breath. My favorite tracks are the romantically-bitter "Better Do Better" and the pseudo-acoustic anthem to criminal behavior, "Stars of CC-TV."
Why You Should Care: Aside from a few tracks with scandalous lyrics, this album is harmless, fun Brit-rock. While it's not moving or powerful or really resonant, it's an album that may keep you coming back for more. I'm interested in seeing what this band does in the future.