I Got This – Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
I just dig Sarah Shook’s vibe. Her voice has such a great bluesy twang. Usually, I know what I’m going to get in a Shook song: attitude, guitars, and something unmistakably country. But this song! “I Got This” opens with a bass riff reminiscent of The Offspring’s “Self Esteem” (twenty seconds after the boyish la la las) and then kicks into full John Mellencamp “Cherry Bomb” (is that an accordion?). There’s not much twang here. There is a two-step if you’re clever. Shook, who can really belt it, sings along with the music and all the great sounds the band and production team has put together. I just didn’t see this one coming. It’s a lot of fun.
Bell Jar – Angela Sclafani
Angela Sclafani, a two-time winner of the Great American Song Contest, shows in “Bell Jar" (yes, this is a song is inspired by Sylvia Plath’s novel) that she is also a very talented singer. Her voice is a throwback to seventies country when the biggest stars had their music played on mainstream radio. The song is about helping a friend who is struggling. Letting them know that they are not alone. The confluence of the various elements (literary, genre, styling, communicative) is lovely and this tune was such a lovely surprise.
Point Me to the Real – Ezra Furman
Lyrically, this might be the best song I’ve heard it quite a while. Furman snagged my attention with the third line, “You picked me up at the County Cook Psychiatry Institute,” and I was completely under the spell of his storytelling. This is not anything like the upbeat “Mysterious Power” (my favorite Furman song). This song is deeply serious and asks you to do a little work to really get a hold of the story. Lyrics like “You never ask what I did that made the cops finally pick me up” hint at something but doesn’t try to answer these types of questions. Instead, the song and the lyrics only point you in general direction towards something hopefully more substantive.