Sorry for the missed posts lately. We’ve been remodeling our church building the past few months, and the last couple of weeks have meant quite a bit of extra work. We’re transforming the building from being a late 19th century Lutheran church into a hip modern-looking coffeehouse. It’ll be pretty cool when it’s all done, but it sure is a lot of extra work. And for a guy who usually sits at a computer half the day, crawling up and down a ladder painting all day is a pretty intense physical workout. So I’ve been getting up later and haven’t had as much time to post.
But enough excuses. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the Chicago-area band Common Shiner. I’ve had a few bands from Chicago on here lately (Anathallo, The Sapiens, and Overhang), so why not add another to the mix?
Common Shiner is Morgan Foster (vocals, acoustic guitar), Michael James Brooks (vocals, keyboard, harmonica), Vijay Bangalore (drums), Jake Chandler (bass), and Andrew Huisjen (lead guitar). With a folk-rock sound reminiscent of early Barenaked Ladies and well-written lyrics that stick in your head while telling stories of real people, Common Shiner is pretty sweet.
On CD Baby, they say about themselves: “Uncommonly Cool, Common Shiner takes their name from a small, abundant fish found throughout streams and lakes in the Midwest and Northeastern United States. In the same scope, the band writes songs seeking to highlight the beauty found in the common experience. From love and hope, to melancholy and anger, and all the humor in between.” If you’re interested in seeing (and reading about) the fish that is the band’s namesake, click here.
First things first. I know that no artist likes to hear that they sound like anybody else, but Common Shiner sounds a lot like Barenaked Ladies. Which isn’t a bad thing. When I was in High School, pretty much all I listened to was cheesy folk music and classical. Classical as in Bach and Beethoven, not Lynyrd Skynyrd and Creedence Clearwater Revival. (And you’re taking musical advice from a guy like that?)
Anyway, I bought my first real “pop” music CD after hearing “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies. Unfortunately, the music store didn’t have their latest album at the time, so I ended up getting an older CD of theirs. Either way, it didn’t matter because I got hooked, and then I went out and slowly bought all the BNL CDs I could find.
For about a year (maybe less), pretty much all I listened to was Barenaked Ladies. I loved their witty well-written lyrics, their folk-rock sound, the stories they told with the songs… Then I became a Christian and realized there were other bands in the world besides BNL.
Well, that was a long way to say that I really dug (digged?) BNL back in the day, so to have a band that reminds me of them is not a bad thing at all. And Common Shiner isn’t just copying BNL’s quirky folk-pop. The songs seem to have a little more depth lyrically, and the music is less quirky folk and more upbeat folk-rock. Huge distinction, right?
My favorite part of Common Shiner is the lyrics. I wish I could tell a story or make a point in song as well as they do. I wish I could come up with clever and witty ways to say things, without just sinking to over-used cliches or broad generalizations. Check out this great line from A Beautiful Disgrace – “I’m not good enough to be this dumb… And I’m not brilliant enough to be this much of a loser.” I’m not totally sure what it means, but I know I’ve felt that way but could never have said it so eloquently.
Besides the lyrics, I love the vocals. I’m not sure who’s singing on most of the songs, Morgan or Michael, but I love the realness to his voice. The vocals aren’t “perfect” and pop-star smooth. It’s like a real person with real emotion is singing and not just some robot with a perfectly-designed voice. Don’t get me wrong. The vocals aren’t really weird or off-key like some of the bands I enjoy. They’re just real, natural somehow. Like I could sing along with them without straining too hard.
Anyway, here are my two favorites off the album Viennas. Hope you like ’em too:
Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week