Welcome to Overlooked Hooks!

Featured

“Drove downtown in the rain, 9:30 on a Tuesday night, just to check out the late night record shop”

Welcome to my blog on unheralded music that your ears will love hearing! Look for a new post at 9:30 on Tuesday nights (as often as I can get them out!) about a song that may have missed the mainstream, but is worth giving a listen.

Disclaimer: All songs posted are for preview purposes only. Overlooked Hooks is not here to pirate this great music, but to give it a spotlight so more folks will buy it and pass it on. If you like the song enough to keep it, please purchase through the Amazon widget provided in each post or somewhere else reputable.

Volume 31: “Halloween Head” Ryan Adams

“Head full of tricks and treats, it leads me through the nighttime streets”

 


 

Deadheads, Parrotheads, Phishheads, Devoted Ryan Adams fans adopted “Halloween Heads” after the track of the same name from 2007’s Easy Tiger. The term seems to fit his songs to a tee. Back in 2006, Adams was recording with The Cardinals, what would become Easy Tiger and III/IV, a double album that would not see release until 2010, and the theme of “bad ideas” seems to permeate all three of these discs.

Hooks Heard
That chorus is accentuated by some crunchy chords on the electric guitar, and the opening bells give the start an ominous touch. Adams’ also announces exactly when the guitar solo is coming, but I could swear that sounds more like an organ (though I guess any sound is possible with the right effects pedal these days). Each verse is equipped with a hook of its own on its last line. I like verse 1’s the best, where he crams in so many words I had to read the lyrics to understand it: “Salt shaker spills just throw it over your shoulder, babe.”

Meaning Meter
Well, this song needs a parental advisory. It’s not gangster rap, but he does drop a few F bombs. These are not flippantly tossed around though. This is a guy who doesn’t trust himself anymore. “Here comes that same old  s**t again, I’ve got a Halloween head…” The creepiest line comes in verse two, “it leads me through the streets at night, it’s alright, I just watch I don’t go inside”. Reminds me of the fiendish Joyce Carol Oates’ character, Arnold Friend.

 

Volume 30: “Missing You” Honey

Kramer: What’s today?
Newman: It’s Thursday.
Kramer: Really? Feels like Tuesday.
Newman: Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel, Friday has a feel, Sunday has a feel….
Kramer: I feel Tuesday and Wednesday..

 

Seinfeld was a show about New York. Of course, the stories revolved around four self-centered dwellers of The City, but there was never any doubt in each episode where the show took place, even though it was mostly filmed in Los Angeles. After 9/11/2001, I think those of us who lived through that day can feel a Tuesday now, just like Kramer.

The 10th anniversary of the attacks was Sunday, but for me 9/11 will always stick in my mind as a Tuesday. It’s supposed to be the most mundane, nondescript day of the week. No longer hanging on to the weekend, it’s not yet “hump day” or anywhere close to TGIF. It’s just, Tuesday. And yet, waking up on that morning in suburban Chicago, driving to work, hearing the aftermath of the first tower strike, then watching the towers fall on TV in the office break room, that gave Tuesday a feeling. A feeling like I had taken all my Tuesdays for granted, living inside borders that hadn’t been breached since the war of 1812.

In the U.S., Tuesday is also new record release day. It just so happens that my favorite album of all time hit record stores on 9/11/2001, the now-obscure band Honey’s third album, appropriately titled Three. The album was not a success, and the band disbanded soon after its release. Even still, I manged to discover this band in college, and upon first listen of their final album, I was hooked. Today, I still  find myself listening to something from this album at least once a week, and if I had to pick one song to play on the proverbial desert island, my waterlogged, but somehow still functional music device would be spinning “Missing You”.

Hooks Heard
There’s something very simple about this song, and yet I think that’s where its beauty lies. In the intro, the band blends lower-octave chords on a piano with an electric lead guitar so well, that it takes a few listens to pick out the two instruments separately. “Missing You” is a classic builder, starting with just those two instruments, building with drums, adding harmonized vocals by the Brothers Moss. The pre-chorus steps up to the edge of the cliff, then flies right off with a full-on wash of lead guitar with Doug Moss out in front on pained vocals with “every single breath you wanted…” After verse two and chorus repeat, the guitar solo punches in without trying anything fancy. In fact it feels like it could be right at home in some long-forgotten 80’s AOR band, but somehow Honey lifts it up to something higher. As that lead part ascends up the scale, it feels like a prayer.

Meaning Meter
Is it possible to be dead-0n direct and vague at the same time? I think the lyrics here achieve just that. It’s crystal clear that the singer misses someone and that he’s probably imagining that person is there (“All around me fades, and I’m still amazed that you’re here”). It’s hard to tell who he’s missing though. Is it a lost love, a family member, a friend? What is obvious is the loss that Moss conveys. The hurt is palpable, he “can’t recall feeling at all”, and yet he’s still reliving “every single breath…every single step”.

Today, 10 years after that infamous 2nd Tuesday in September, I’m determined not  to take this Tuesday for granted. All of us who don’t know a name on that memorial were blessed to only watch the tragedy from afar, but those two building-shaped holes, perpetually filling with water, surrounded by names of the fallen, should also remind us to find the gift we’re given in living another day, even a mundane Tuesday, and maybe hug somebody we might be missing someday down the line.

Vol. 29: “Peace” Rich Mullins

“The Scriptures don’t teach us to be assertive. The Scriptures teach us—and this is remarkable—the Scriptures teach us to be submissive. This is not a popular idea.” — Rich Mullins

 

Sometimes it seems the best of us get the shortest lives. When Rich Mullins was thrown from his Jeep on September 19th, 1997, the world lost one of its greatest Christian poets. Rich was the first to tell you he wasn’t perfect, but he was real. Disillusioned by the music business, he left it all to live with the Navajo in Tse Bonito, New Mexico, doing what he loved most, teaching music. Now 14 years after his death, the Kid Brothers of St. Frank, continue his work with a traveling music school that reaches remote parts of the reservations. Rich’s last album before moving to the reservation was A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. Track 6 is “Peace (A communion blessing from Saint Joseph’s Square)”.

Hooks Heard
I real-bad wanted to play the piano intro to this song the first time I heard it. It sounded simple enough, until I got the music notation and realized it was way out of my league (though that doesn’t take much). The opening drifts into a subdued, catchy melody that repeats throughout the song’s verses and into the outro. Languid verses are broken up by a thundering chorus, punching drumbeats out in stark contrast, while Rich proclaims loud the blessing, like we’re hard of hearing (’cause we are).

Meaning Meter
This is part 2 of 3 in a series commemorating not the attacks of September 11th, but the heroism and unity in the face of them. In a song called “Peace”, the first idea I get is some anthem of the ’60s, loudly decrying the last war on communism. This is not that. It’s a quiet Communion message, offering an olive branch to “you”, not “your mask”. Doctrine is important to the Christian faith, but here he doesn’t dwell on it (See another song on the album called “Creed” for plenty of that). Rich proclaims the communion feast open for anyone who can “lay down [their] fears” and “trust this to be true”, such a simple description of faith.

War, violence, evil, these are the thorniest manifestations of the curse this world is under. God commands us to love, but also to protect the innocent, and sometimes events like 9/11 jam us right in the middle of the two, trying to carry out both. The best of what we saw in the days after were Americans living out the blessing of this song, putting nothing but peace between us for a little while, while we all dealt with the shock and realized we were on the same side. Here’s hoping it won’t take another awful event to get us back there again.

Vol. 28: “La Cienega Just Smiled” Ryan Adams

As long as you don’t request “Summer of ’69” at one of his concerts, Ryan Adams is your typical mild-mannered genius of a singer-songwriter.

 

Back in 2001, he was coming off a critically acclaimed debut album Heartbreaker and following that album up with Gold. The events of 9/11/01 would forever link this album and its debut single “New York, New York”. Filmed in front of the trade towers just a few days before the attacks, the lyrics “I’ll always love you New York” became part of the voice of a nation.

As great as that song is, it’s too popular to be featured in this blog. The song that grabs me now more than any other on the album is “La Cienega Just Smiled”. Just an album track on a long list of songs for Gold, it’s easy not to notice this quiet, piano driven gem. “Oh the night here it comes again…” It’s one of those songs that defies description as to where its power comes from. Lyrically and musically it just comes together to spin regretful straw of a memory  into pure Gold. Give it a listen and see if you agree.

 

Announcing Overlooked Hooks LE (Light Edition)

In the software world, LE means you’re getting the gutted free version of an application as a trial to buy the real thing. Not so here at Overlooked Hooks! LE is here only because I’ve decided that shorter posts are better than no posts at all. So, Light Edition will feature a song I think needs attention, but don’t have time to give a full post. I’ll still do full posts now and then, and especially on special occasions (look for a song from my all-time favorite album on the Tuesday before the 9/11 anniversary).