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April 9, 2008

Coffee House Rock

I've been living with The Nadas and Matt Nathanson albums for a few days now. I bought them after hearing songs by them on Pandora Radio. So, what do I think?

I should probably mention that as I type this I'm enjoying my first cup of coffee this week... on Wednesday. That's a big deal to me. I normally don't function before my morning caffeine fix. I'm not on any health kick. I just thought I'd see what happened if I throttled back on the juice. I can't actually say I've missed coffee as much as I expected to. What I miss is the process of having one. There's something grounding about it. Morning coffee is a punctuation mark. Having that first cup says '...aaaand GO!'.

Coffee. There's a tenuous link in there with Matt Nathanson. As I understand it, through very limited background reading, he's an artist who started off playing in coffee houses then went on to record with a label.

I mentioned in my previous post that I'm a bit of a Mraz-a-fan (a fan of Jason Mraz). I got into Jason's stuff before he got his deal. When I first started listening to him the recordings were live, punctuated by the rattle of coffee cups, the hiss of espresso machines and the calls for double caramel frappe macchiatos. We're talking Cal-if-or-ni-a, here... San Diego. The set-up was just Jason on acoustic/vocals and sidekick Toca Rivera on backing/percussion. Together they had this lyrical/rhythmical thing going. Okay, so this post isn't supposed to be about Mraz. I will mention that he has a new album being released next month. There's some marketing gimmick going on where they pre-release EPs with alternate cuts. Don't quite get it, but there are details here.

So, Matt Nathanson's "Beneath These Fireworks"... I'm going to stick my neck out and classify it as folk-rock. There are a few layers of production in there but you can still smell the singer-songwriter under the blankets. Okay, so did that sound weird? Tough, you have that image now!
My first impression wasn't great. Most of the album sounded kind of samey to me. "Curve of the Earth", which I'd heard on Pandora, made me stick with it, though. After a couple of listens through I started to see through the production, listen to the lyrics and suddenly the hooks started to get me.

I think I like it. I think it has longevity. I think I'll be buying his new album.

As I understand it, The Nadas are a different animal altogether. Born from the college-band circuit, they stuck together after school, sidestepped major labels to remain independent and now pretty much record and release what they want to.

The style of "Listen Through The Static" veers from genre to genre but somehow manages to stay on the rails. If anything it's the imperfection of the album that solidifies it. Again, it's a grower. I wasn't into the album the first time round but quickly found myself digging it.

The song of theirs that I heard on Pandora was "Life Becomes Me", which is basically a song about how being successful isn't always about making a fortune or writing a bestselling novel. Sometimes it's about finding the right person and just being in the right head space. The guitar sound is cheesy, surfer, Shadows-esqe... BUT IT WORKS! It's about as frikkin' feelgood as you can get.

I think some people classify The Nadas as alt-country. I don't know that it's fair to saddle them with that label, at least based on this album. Some of it's soaring major-tonality rock, some's acoustic folk and yes, some of it has a country twang. And if I'd heard Track 3, "The Deal", by itself I would have guessed from the intro that it was Duncan Sheik.

You know, I think I really like this album, too.

Damn. I finished my coffee. Change of subject!

Recently I've been seriously considering swapping out my Les Paul Red's pickups. Way back when, I bought a pair of Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbuckers as used (allegedly) by Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts. Now, if that's not a stellar endorsement, I don't know what is. I'd always told myself that if I ever got a real Les Paul then the first thing I'd do would be to change out the stock pups for the Seymour Duncans.

Red came with shiny new Burstbucker Pros, though. I don't know what to do. Having played the Pearly Gates through my old guitar they definitely give a raucous sound that I like, but is it stupid to change out the Burstbuckers? Don't know. Don't know... DON'T KNOW!!! If I hated the stock pickups then it'd be a no-brainer, but I like them. I don't know that they're 100% what I want, but their sound is pretty damn good.

What to do? What to do..?

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