Looking for piano-driven music
October 2, 2006 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend to me some good piano-driven music?

For example
What Sarah Said by Death Cab for Cutie, except maybe a tad happier?
Like How To Save a Life by The Fray
Or most of Coldplay's Rush of Blood album.

Genre doesn't matter, but I already went through these pages and they're not quite what I'm looking for.
posted by moonshine to Media & Arts (52 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not super familiar with Ben Folds' solo career, but "Annie Waits" is an excellent piano-driven song. Most of Ben Folds Five (Ben Folds' old group) also features a lot of piano, and songs along the style of what you've mentioned would be "Magic," "Evaporated," "Don't Change Your Plans," and "Cigarette."
posted by dorothy humbird at 8:19 PM on October 2, 2006

I don't know any of those songs but two of my favorite piano based alternative songs are I Need a Girl by Sean Na-Na and Lemongrass by Parker Paul (takes a minute to get going but it's a great track).
posted by dobbs at 8:22 PM on October 2, 2006

Konstantine, by Something Corporate. Mostly piano based, and a beautiful song.

a lot of songs by Something Corporate, actually, is piano-pop. I'd also greatly recommend Jack's Mannequin, which is SoCo's frontman Andrew McMahon's personal project.

Daniel Powter (Bad Day, Jimmy Gets High) and James Blunt (You're Beautiful, Wisemen) both have quite a bit of piano-driven music.

Other titles that come to mind are Over My Head, by The Fray and there's obviously Vanessa' Carleton's A Thousand Miles, which is rather aged.

Hope that helps.
posted by Phire at 8:22 PM on October 2, 2006

Regina Spektor
Antony and the Johnsons
posted by ludwig_van at 8:25 PM on October 2, 2006

I'll also recommend John Cale's Paris 1919.
posted by dobbs at 8:25 PM on October 2, 2006

Second that Regina Spektor!
posted by wandering steve at 8:26 PM on October 2, 2006

What about this?
(Disclaimer: I know these guys, but also objectively think they're awesome.)
posted by easternblot at 8:28 PM on October 2, 2006

Second Ben Folds.
posted by matkline at 8:33 PM on October 2, 2006

I've really been into Jack's Mannequin lately.

Their MySpace page has a couple of good samples.
posted by Alt F4 at 8:34 PM on October 2, 2006

Regina Spektor is the first who came to my mind, try Love Affair, Samson, or The Flower.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:34 PM on October 2, 2006

Also Sufjan Stevens sometimes.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:38 PM on October 2, 2006

I would add: Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys.
posted by hazelshade at 8:42 PM on October 2, 2006

Sorry, just want to qualify the Rufus Wainwright suggestion: mostly his first, self-titled album, and his second album, which is called "Poses."
posted by hazelshade at 8:43 PM on October 2, 2006

Kate Bush, her early work.
posted by adipocere at 8:48 PM on October 2, 2006

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
(their last couple albums are pretty mellow, a lot of piano)
posted by Sloben at 8:53 PM on October 2, 2006

Look for a band called Suddenly, Tammy! Not sure what they have in print anymore, though.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:57 PM on October 2, 2006

I'm not a big fan of Belle and Sebastian, but their album If You're Feeling Sinister has some really good piano numbers, like "Seeing Other People" and "The Fox in the Snow."
posted by ijoshua at 8:57 PM on October 2, 2006

David Fridlund's "April and May". Professor Longhair (Piano-driven blues). Tom Waits' Closing Time (the whole album). The Walkmen's "We've Been Had". The Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" (The perfect pop song). Belle and Sebastian's "Fox in the Snow" (on preview, seconded). Most Ben Kweller songs. Casey Dienel (My favorite is "The La La Song"). Hedwig's "Wig In A Box". Island's "Bucky Little Wing".
posted by Dalton at 8:59 PM on October 2, 2006

Bands/Musicians - Sample Song(s)
Tori Amos - Cornflake Girl, et. al.
Fiona Apple - Fast As You Can, Criminal, etc.
Ben Folds Five / Ben Folds - Uncle Walter, One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces, Army, et.al.
Jackson Browne - Doctor My Eyes
Dave Brubeck
Kate Bush - This Woman's Work, Wuthering Heights, et. al.
Ray Charles
Marc Cohn
Harry Connick, Jr.
Eels - Novocaine for the Soul
Fats Domino
Fleetwood Mac
Hall & Oates
Joe Jackson
Billy Joel - Los Angelenos, Miami 2017, et. al.
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Tiny Dancer, et. al.
Queen - Killer Queen, Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon (Freddie Mercury played piano and/or keyboard on quite a few songs)
Carole King
Squeeze - ? (Jools Holland plays piano)
Suddenly Tammy! - Hard Lesson, et. al.
Supergrass - Alright, et. al.
Rufus Wainwright - Foolish Love, et. al.
Steve Winwood
posted by dgeiser13 at 9:13 PM on October 2, 2006

Some David Gray is piano-driven. Try The Other Side or Ain't No Love. Nos Da Cariad isn't necessarily piano-driven but it's quite reminiscent of Rush of Blood (for me) so you might try that too.

How about The Beatles? Lady Madonna or something like that? I suggest it not because you haven't heard it, although that's possible -- just trying to get a bead on what you like.
posted by danb at 9:18 PM on October 2, 2006

Vienna Teng, Tori Amos, and Over the Rhine (especially their latest, A Drunkard's Prayer) are some fine examples of piano-driven music. Though unlike your examples, none of them feature male vocal leads.
posted by visual mechanic at 9:19 PM on October 2, 2006

Counting Crows - "Hanging around" and a few others
posted by chrisamiller at 9:22 PM on October 2, 2006

The first track from Harvey Danger's new album is very piano-y. You can download the whole album in MP3 format for free. The rest of the album is great too but not nearly so piano-y.
posted by kindall at 9:42 PM on October 2, 2006

Ben Fold's 'The Luckiest' is perhaps the most beautiful piano-driven song I've ever heard. If you search hard enough, there is also an earlier piano-only version of Evanesence's 'My Immortal' which, as I implied, comes sans the heavy guitar halfway through it. I actually prefer it to the album version.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:46 PM on October 2, 2006

have to Second (and third) all mentions of Tori Amos & Rufus Wainwright.

For Tori Amos, I'd suggest starting with 'Boys For Pele'. It's my favorite album of her's and contains not only great piano but great harpsichord too. My favorite songs from this album are probably 'In The Springtime Of His Voodoo' or 'Professional Widow'. Try to get the version without the remix of 'Talula' (the Tornado mix) which ruins the flow of the album.

Albums after 'Pele' are good, but tend to be more focused on Tori's voice rather than her piano (though it's still very much present). She's great live, especially when she plays the piano & harpsichord at the same time. She's got a pretty big internet following and one of the bigger fan sites has a big compliation of live mp3s by Tori. (tiny navigation at the top.)

Tori Video Samples: Raspberry Swirl , Leather, and Father Lucifer (on Letterman) (This one features a Tori Amos 'trick' she often does live. Tori will play several songs, seamlessly transfering between them. Here she plays her song, then goes into 'Tubular Bells'.)

Rufus' first two albums are really good. And I'm not just saying that because I bought my copy of 'Poses' from him and he opened it for me because I couldn't operate plastic wrap. (He's taller than I imagined and has very messy handwriting.) Vibrate video and his version of Across The Universe. (Fiona Apple did this one too.) My absolute favorite Rufus Video, which if you're a No Doubt or Smashing Pumpkins fan, you'll probably see familiar faces.
posted by aristan at 9:59 PM on October 2, 2006

Busby Berkeley Dreams, My Only Friend - The Magnetic Fields
Chocolates - The Aluminum Group
Oklahoma U.S.A. - The Kinks
Inflammatory Writ - Joanna Newsom
Ghost Ship in a Storm - Jim O'Rourke
Oliver's Army - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
If It's Monday Morning - Kid Loco
Bennie and the Jets - Elton John
Young Americans, most of Hunky Dory - David Bowie
posted by hydrophonic at 10:27 PM on October 2, 2006

The White Birch, specifically the track "Your Spain"
posted by hototogisu at 10:35 PM on October 2, 2006

Chroma Key is pretty good, if a bit uneven. Very moody. I particularly recommend the album "You Go Now" but their latest, "Graveyard Mountain Home" is not super-amazing.
posted by headlessagnew at 10:43 PM on October 2, 2006

Nellie McKay.
A lot of Ziggye Stardust from David Bowie.
Andrew W.K.
posted by piratebowling at 10:47 PM on October 2, 2006

you can't beat jerry lee lewis for sheer rock and roll piano craziness ... "live at the star club, hamburg, 1964" is the most ferocious rock and roll you'll ever hear

one of my favorite piano players is laura nyro ...
posted by pyramid termite at 10:52 PM on October 2, 2006

There's a New Zealand singer/songwriter by the name of Greg Johnson who plays a mean piano.

I'd recommend Don't Wait Another Day from Vine Street Stories. There's a preview here, but it sounds much better at high quality.
posted by pivotal at 11:33 PM on October 2, 2006

Some jazz greats:

Art Tatum Critic Scott Yanow declares that "Tatum's recordings still have the ability to scare modern pianists."

McCoy Tyner His hands span two octaves, and he backed John Coltrane, and arranged for many other jazz greats.

Bill Evans played fewer notes, and said more with the silences between them, than anyone since has ever tried. He played every note that had to be played, and never any to show off. He's the pianist on "the best jazz album ever made" as many think, Kind of Blue, with Miles Davis.

Thelonious Monk wrote Round Midnight and was one of the guys without whom bebop never would have happened. You think you know some harmony, and then you hear Monk, and he takes you to school.

Oscar Peterson has often been compared to Art Tatum, with good reason. "In fact, one of his first exposures to the musical talents of Art Tatum came early in his teen years when his father played an Art Tatum record to him and Peterson was so intimidated by what he heard that he didn't touch the piano for over a week." He got over that, and he's earned the right to be compared with Tatum, and not stand in anyone's shadow. A great, generous, classy musician.
posted by paulsc at 11:47 PM on October 2, 2006

Fix for bad Thelonious Monk link above. I dunno what happened there.
posted by paulsc at 12:03 AM on October 3, 2006

A wonderful local band from my college town - like nothing you have ever heard before.
posted by idiotfactory at 1:11 AM on October 3, 2006

The Dresden Dolls
posted by a. at 4:34 AM on October 3, 2006

Shannon Wright
posted by tew at 5:33 AM on October 3, 2006

Savage Garden's "Two Beds and a Coffee Machine" is beautiful.
posted by divabat at 6:23 AM on October 3, 2006

Wow, judging from this list so far, apparently piano-driven = sucks. For something a little less terrible, you should look in to Three Mile Pilot, especially Songs From an Old Town We Once Knew.

For jazz, I'll definitely second Thelonius Monk and also Bill Evans, especially his "Live at the Village Vanguard."
posted by saladin at 6:37 AM on October 3, 2006

In the Coldplay vein, check out Keane. I love their first album, Hopes and Fears. Their second album, Under the Iron Sea, just came out, and from what I've heard of it, sounds good.

For something a little harder (with a Radiohead sort of sound), check out the song "Sunburn" by Muse, which is on their album Showbiz. Some of their songs have piano, but a lot of their songs are mostly guitar driven.

I second Tori Amos (can't believe how long it took her name to show up in this thread), but I must say that Boys for Pele is my least favorite of her albums. I would check out Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink or From the Choirgirl Hotel first.
posted by witchstone at 6:49 AM on October 3, 2006

I think you would have to include Bruce Hornsby in any discussion of piano-driven music in the past 20 years. My personal favorite is Hot House, which is very jazz driven, but you could make a case for his debut The Way It Is as well.
posted by Lame_username at 8:06 AM on October 3, 2006

Seconding Bruce Hornsby. Spirit Trail is a phenomenal record.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:25 AM on October 3, 2006

Orb - Oxbow lakes, Orchestral version. Very rare. It's on the Oxbow Lakes Single, sometimes you can find it on eBay.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 9:29 AM on October 3, 2006

The Lambchop albums Nixon and Is A Woman have some beautiful piano-led songs...
posted by creeky at 9:50 AM on October 3, 2006

Mott the Hoople - All The Way To Memphis
posted by rfs at 10:13 AM on October 3, 2006

Do general keyboards count? The Mates of State might be the way to go, then.
posted by Iridic at 4:20 PM on October 3, 2006

Third-ing Bruce Hornsby. With or without "the Range". I'm just gonna have to go listen to "The River Runs Low" and "Spider Fingers".
posted by ersatzkat at 4:22 PM on October 3, 2006

I second giving Muse a try. They are mostly guitar driven, but the piano does appear often.
posted by smallerdemon at 11:29 PM on October 3, 2006

You might enjoy some of Randy Newman's stuff too. (Half of Hornsby's most recent album sounds to me like a poor Newman pastiche.)
posted by kindall at 11:58 PM on October 3, 2006

And don't forget Radiohead's "Pyramid Song."
posted by saladin at 6:27 AM on October 4, 2006

Madness - Our House
posted by dgeiser13 at 3:09 PM on October 4, 2006


Snow Patrol.

n+1 for Ben Folds and Keane.

Someone on another mailing list came up with the best name for this treacly uber-emo piano-based balladry. They called it Braff-rock.
posted by softlord at 6:02 AM on October 5, 2006

They called it Braff-rock.

Lame. Poppy piano ballads were around long before Garden State, which didn't even have that many of them.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:37 AM on October 5, 2006

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