During a recent shopping trip, I picked up a couple cds. No surprise there. The first was by Ted Leo and The Pharmacists — their latest release Living With The Living, and the second was Back to Black by British bad girl Amy Winehouse. After listening to both discs for a week, and absolutely enjoying both of them (I must add), I came to the realization that in some way, both of these purchases were influenced by image.

Ted Leo is one of the genuinely good guys in music today. If you’ve ever seen him live, and witnessed his sincerity on stage first hand, you’ll be hooked for life. Not only is he a fine songwriter and musician, but he gives you the impression that he really cares about you. He plays every show as if it’s the most important show of his life, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in Cleveland, New York City, or Walla Walla, Washington. I want to down some beers with Ted Leo. When I’m out of town, I want Ted Leo to watch my cats. He’s that kind of guy.

Jess Harvell nailed it on his Pitchfork review. It’s so hard to be critical of Ted Leo’s music. He could record a disc of covers by Babs and Bette and I’d give it a glowing review. I’d spend my time wondering whether I’ve been too hard on Babs and Bette in the past. Maybe I need more Bette Middler in my cd collection. Remember that tune, “Wind Beneath My Wings?” That was some powerful sh*t.

Thankfully, Ted Leo didn’t test my dedication on Living With The Living. Instead, he delivered yet another solid release of intelligent rockers.

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists – A Bottle of Buckie [download]Ted Leo and The Pharmacists – Sons of Cain [download]

Amy Winehouse’s image couldn’t be more different. Do a quick Google and you’ll find stories of bar fights, stage exits, and missed shows. You’ll hear the tough broad talk, and surely there will be a mention of the nudie tattoos. If you’re lucky, that article might also mention that’s she’s an incredibly talented singer. Though she’s only in her twenties, she has the powerful, soulful voice, of someone who’s fought many battles in life, and somehow, either through grit or luck, made it out alive.

When I returned to the cubicle farm from my lunchtime shopping trip with Back to Black in hand, I didn’t rush over to my friends and tell them about this great cd I picked up. No, instead I told them about the woman on the cover. I told them about the dirty business. I flipped through the cd booklet, sadly disappointed that I didn’t see the naughty tatts. I told stories about how this tough Jewish broad from England, with an old soul voice, could drink me under the table. This was my kind of girl. One of my cube mates saw the titles, “Rehab”,”You Know I’m No Good,” and “Addicted” and asked if I was sure that I could hang with Ms. Winehouse. No, but I’d sure like to try.

Now while I’ve been regularly rocking Back To Black during the past week, the question remains: Would I have ever have bought this cd if it wasn’t for the bad girl on the cover?

Amy Winehouse – Rehab [youtube]Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good [youtube]