Sunday, January 18, 2015

St. Vincent - Digital Witness

Another favorite song of 2014... I listened to this one SO MANY TIMES. 

St. Vincent has been rocking our socks and shoes off for years, but she’s never sounded sharper than now. Jagged horns puncture the air and a distorted bass starts an earthquake of sound while Annie Clark helplessly cries out for us to step away from technology and consumerism before we become so vacuous that we can’t even see what we’re watching. The menacing tone feels more urgent, thanks to the cacophony of sound that she elegantly builds by the end of the song.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Real Estate - Primitive

Another favorite song of 2014: 
“Primitive” is a wonderful gooey-guitared example of the power of harmonies coupled with a great melody. Pure sap, the lyrics scoop listeners into an ideal romance. “Don’t know where I want to be/But I’m glad that you’re with me/And all I know is it’d be easy to me.”
Real Estate always knows the right amount of reverb and guitar noodling to put you in a place of pure bliss; one that requires no thinking, just feeling. By the time you reach the last minute of the song, a minute and a half of instrumentals that twist and twirl in warm circles, it’s impossible to feel anything but at peace.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Alvvays - Archie, Marry Me

I didn't do any top lists this year because I got overwhelmed with how many incredible things came out in 2015, and honestly didn't take the time to sort through it all. It's been more of a year for podcasts, weirdly, because I'm indulging in my love for good storytelling.

But I do want to share a few of my favorite songs in the next couple days.

Here's #1 of 2014:

It took less than a minute into my first listen before I recognized perfection. It doesn’t need any frills or fanciness to suck you in. And the spell these fuzzy riffs cast lasts much longer than its brief three-minute life. Let’s put it this way. The melody on “Archie, Marry Me” is so addictive you feel like a chocoholic with an IV dripping fondue straight into your system.  

The lyrics may be simple, but they feel like the shortest and best summary of a relationship where one person is doing all the heavy lifting, and the other is floating along. You’ll be belting along with the chorus immediately – because we’ve all had an Archie in our life, even if our names aren’t Betty and Veronica. Archie may not be ready for marriage, but this is the kind of song that we can all commit to our music libraries for life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cory Bishop - Cory Bishop EP

It's past my bedtime, so I'll keep this short. But do you ever have an experience where you immediately write off music based on your first listen, when you link that music with something generic and disposable? And then, when you listen another time, and then another, you realize that there's something really special there?

That's exactly how I feel about Cory Bishop. I don't know who sent me this album (thanks person), but it was probably hidden in the small pocket of my car where I keep a stack of CDs that I eventually get around to, but in no rush. And then I popped it in today, and it sounded like a generic alt-country album that is like the definition of most boring music to me.

I have to admit, leading off with "You Can't Take Me" might not have been the wisest choice if you want to attract Danielle Sills' in the future. But I'm trying not to be so shallow to overlook an entire EP based on the over-compressed alt-country nugget that is this song. And, well, even this nugget grew on me.

But the more I listen to the five songs on this release, the more I find hints of things I like. Little melodies here and there, lyrics that are clever and concise, and then, the ultimate compliment, a song that reminds me of Josh Ritter, a man who I think has some of the best songcraft of modern times (not to mention the best lyrics).

I like the sad ones best. "Crown of Thorns" has great imagery -- they're sitting in the back of a beat up truck with the radio playing unmemorable songs and commercials about diamond rings... then this lyric happens: "when we wake I'm gonna take back everything I say/but you'll never get back what you're letting me steal away." It's the sad regret of a man who knows he shouldn't be doing what he's doing.

But it's not until the final track, "Honey I Ain't," that I really decided I supremely enjoy this little mini-album. It creeps forward, cascading easily like a good Josh Ritter song, building and backing off and building again each chorus. It gallops forward with a nice beat, and how could you not love picturing this lyric? "The city streets are filled with empty/except the fog that's slowly lifting," he croons, "the buildings try to scrape the sky/by this point i've memorized the shade of green encompassed by your eyes." Bishop does this nice thing with rhyming without you realizing that he's doing it, so it sounds paced, but not obvious. I really like that. I really like this song.

If you're a fan of Ritter or The Head and the Heart, check him out. He's in Nashville, and he's touring, and hopefully getting big soon.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Doe Eye - Television

It looks ordinary from the cover, but this Television is anything but. Doe Eye is Maryam Qudus, an Afghan American whose parents never really approved of her playing music. She began a pre-med program only to drop out and go instead to Berklee College of Music.

Her debut full-length starts off menacingly with a harsh, crunchy grit, a sound that immediately sounds familiar to fans of John Vanderslice. (The album was recorded at his Tiny Telephone studios... which is a place chock full of cool analog instruments -- enough reason to get excited about this album before you even listen.) I'm a big fan of the second track, "Diamond." "Momma always said I'm a diamond/cuz I'm rough," she croons understatedly, with a great melody and a really morbid vibe.

Where it starts to turn a corner for me is on the third song, "I Was Born on a Monday." It starts with the same intro melody as Robbie Williams' "Millenium" (remember that huge hit around the harrowing times of Y2K?), without all the woos and the good feelings. It has something of a St. Vincent feel. The longing sound of Qudus' voice, the miscellaneous piano twinkling, the strange, bass-like synthesizer. And that's where she loses me. On songs like these, Qudus gets a little too weird.

Weird like the kind of music I could no longer put on a mix CD for a friend who isn't into strange music. It goes past the line of normal song structure, and into some noise. Not noise like all out noise, but it's busy. It starts to make me feel chaotic, which may be the point, but I don't like that point.

The other gem on the album is "Untitled," an edgy number with a straight-up guitar line, punctured drums, which speed up in spurts, and a nice, looming piano laced throughout.  It's simple, feels cool, and shows a focus that some of this album can't seem to hold.

One last note for musicians. Can you please stop putting hidden tracks like 15 minutes into the last song? If I'm listening in a car or somewhere where I can't easily fast-forward, I really don't like waiting for that long to listen to more music. So, just have an 11th song. It's not that big of a deal, nor does it make you special. Actually, with the last Alt-J album, it prevented me from putting my favorite song on the album on all my mixes. You're ruining good mixtapes/CD's people!

Ok rant over. Bottom line here is: check this woman out. She's got something really good going, and I only see it getting better with time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Generationals - Alix

 If there was an overriding theme of Alix, it would be falsetto. Not Bee Gees falsetto. Because this isn't exactly disco. Sure, it's peppy and you could argue it's danceable, but this synthesizer-driven collection is more pop than dance music.  And on the songs with falsetto, you just wish this male duo would get an awesome female to hit the same notes without such an airy, weak delivery.

But not everything is coated in gooey crooning. “Charlemagne” brings out the best in the Louisiana band, from glitchy beats to easygoing harmonies. They know how to make cute little catchy numbers, but they’re just not ear-catching enough to stay in your head for very long after they end. Stronger vocals might just do the trick.

Michaela Anne - Ease My Mind

It's been a while since I've done this, so let's see if I can remember.

I'm not much of a country fan in general. I find most of the new country repulsive, although I've found a little soft spot lately for Kasey Musgraves (although the spot isn't that soft because I still had to google her name to remember it). But this release feels more folksy with a country twang.

The songs each have really pretty melodies, and some of the ache you hear in Jessica Lea Mayfield's music. After repeated listens, this is one you're probably going to want to sing along to.

I'm not giving it a ringing endorsement, but a "maybe check it out" for us borderline folk/alternative country fans.