Music to Your Ears – Cage the Elephant, Coheed and Cambria, LCD Soundsystem, and Wakey!Wakey!

2015 is wrapping up (thank God), and we’ll wrap up this column with a few last minute offerings from the music world:

Wakey!Wakey!Heartbroke

I was surprised that this tender tribute to loss and troubled souls was so soft – but singer Michael Grubbs has this tendency to flaunt his smooth vocals, so maybe it’s not so surprising how driven this song is. The piano beat drives the tone of the song and the lyrics bring you to a point of poignancy. I’m not sure what I really get from this song, but I’m rambling a bit now. Just check it out and see if it gives you any feelings. Don’t know why I can’t place a finger on this one, but that’s really what I get from this band. They had a handful of songs on One Tree Hill back in the day, and it sounds a lot like music that would play in the background of that show, a sort of Snow Patrol-lite.

Coheed and Cambria – Hello

Another cover this week, from a male perspective covering a female vocalist. How soon did we expect someone to cover one of the biggest hits of 2015? I figured it would take until next year to have it happen, and I certainly hadn’t pegged Claudio Sanchez to be the one to tackle the lyrics this go-round. Coheed and Cambria have been quite an enigmatic band over the past decade or so since they burst onto the progressive scene with 2003’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. Never shying away from the experimental, especially with the vocals, this is actually a fairly straightforward cover of Adele’s hit Hello. Of course the honesty behind Sanchez’s timbre lends the cover a bit more air than just being a slight novelty. If you’re into the song quite a bit, this is definitely a fun take on it, otherwise it’s almost as grating as the original.

LCD Soundsystem – Christmas Will Break Your Heart

One last Christmas song, everyone! Well, it’s from that classic crooner James, whose dour tales of woe had enchanted us throughout the 2000s – New York, You’re Bringing Me Down being my go-to as I’m wandering through the city looking to seem as sad as the rest of those city-dwellers. Anyway, here’s another depressing follow-up from the retired? singer – he makes a point to sardonically be ‘over’ Christmas. I think at a point we all get ‘over’ the season of Christmas, but there are other ways to find happiness in the day. This isn’t it. Too sad.

Cage the Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty

The new album from quintet Cage the Elephant starts off fairly raucously with a psychedelic rendition meant to evoke early The Who or The Buckinghams – gem Cry Baby. The fun continues with their first single Mess Around. which is a bubbly fun guitar riff. As a whole the album has a sound that reminds very easily of recent tracks by the Arctic Monkeys, a British band who recently had a resurgence in popularity after many years spent trying to regain the fame brought by early 2000s British pop popularity. Cage is not British, nor have they ever really tried to sound like anything besides themselves, but given my penchant for this style (Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, The Kooks) I really like the direction the band has taken.

Nowhere more apparent is this sound comparable to the Arctic Monkeys than in next single Too Late to Say Goodbye. A drawling love letter to the end of a caustic relationship, the damaged lyrics sprawl through the boozy guitar. I said in an earlier review of the song that it reminded me of a 70s or 80s James Bond theme. Given our recent discovery of Radiohead’s Spectre, I can say that either of those tracks would have been better than Sam Smith’s choice. A rumbling from beneath the beat drives the next track Cold Cold Cold and continues with the following song Trouble. The album is just a wholesome rock album trying its best to get us to jam one last time before going into that bleak future, perfect for the year (2016, where we could have a President Trump). I think this album will play through my winter, especially if the snow falls fast and furiously.

Cage The Elephant performs on The Night 89X Stole Christmas Show at The Fillmore in Detroit, MI on December 17th 2013 Photo by Marc Nader

Certainly that somber tone finally finds a home by the last third of the album, starting with melancholy How Are You True, which slows the pace down tremendously. The band tries to pick it back up on the following track, That’s Right, but this is probably the only low point of the album. I’m not an expert on order, but this feels more like it belonged ahead of How Are You True. I’m sure they didn’t want to end on a downer note, of course, as they pick us up with the final songs Punching Bag and Portugues Knife Fight. The one-two punch of this finale is enough to save the album and make it a rollicking good time for all rock fans.

Key Tracks: Cry Baby, Too Late to Say Goodbye, Portuguese Knife Fight

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