Music to Your Ears – The Lumineers, Ariana Grande, St Lucia, and Elton John!

So after a small hiatus, we’ve returned with a new edition of Music to Your Ears. Given the time off we have plenty to talk about, so here’s several brief reviews of February and March’s biggest releases:

The Lumineers – “Ophelia”

This seemingly one-hit wonder dropped a new hit recently, and the infectious little devil has stuck itself deep inside my brain cavity. I was hopeful that the pop-folk chanteurs could someday overcome the parody of their gigantic single “Hey Ho” – brought to us by late night wonder Jimmy Fallon. Beyond those feathers, I never expected this newer song to be so damn good, but it most certainly is. If it makes it to the end of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised to find this song in my top ten singles, as it’s wormed its way into my mind on many an occasion. Hopefully it will for you as well, it’s definitely worth it.

St. Lucia – Matter

The energy exuding from this album is understandably vivacious, given that St. Lucia recently entered indie darling territory with their last album When the Night and the subsequent tour. Returning to the limelight, this will certainly give fans a treat for the ears, and hopefully bring in new fans. As their celebrity expands, I’m sure the sales will follow. This is an easy buy for the casual listener, as highlight songs “Home” and “Rescue Me” will get them dancing for sure.

M83 – “Do It, Try It

This newest single from the electro-pop group is just as obnoxiously grating as their previous massive hit “Midnight City”. Pretentious and overproduced, I can’t wait to turn my radio dial away when I hear the first piano slam indicating that this is beginning. If you were a fan of that aforementioned success, then you’ll likely be thrilled, but I’m certain now I’ll never be a fan of the band.

Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night

Boy do I love a good Elton John album. This one may not be it, though it has a lot of fantastic energy in it. When talking about latter Elton John, it’s worth it to note that he’s still capable of putting together some wonderful harmonies and decent lyrics, but there’s still something missing. It’s as if all the great spirit was expended on the early hits on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and otherwise. Still, though, this is a decent piece in his oeuvre, proof that Elton is still around and lively enough to go on (hopefully) a massive world tour to support this and his past endeavours.

Lucius – Good Grief

I included hit single “Born Again Teen” in my top ten songs of 2015, and I didn’t even realize the band’s album wasn’t coming out until early 2016. I just assumed that it was the best track and I’d stumbled upon it late. Much to my chagrin, I finally caught up with the rest when the most of the world did – and it’s absolutely worth it. This is definitely the best album I’ve heard yet this year. Innovative tempo changes, an elusive vocalist who romanticizes every waking moment, and a upbeat demeanor that underlies how contemptuous the lyrics actually are. Check it out for yourself below.

 

Ariana Grande – “Dangerous Woman”

Unlike Rihanna’s recently tantalizing album that popped up out of nowhere a few weeks back, Ariana Grande surprised no one with this reliably tame anthem. Grande seems to think she’ll blow up the world much like her compatriot Demi Lovato, but this is definitely no “Confident”. I’m sure this will get overplayed on your top 10 pop radio stations, but I’ll be changing the dial as soon as I actually realize the dull tune is hitting my eardrums.

Ray LaMontagne – Ouroboros

Traditionally a folk singer, LaMontagne is stretching his boundaries here in what is, in a sense, a concept album. Thematically, the title and songs elicit that ancient Greek symbol of the snake eating its own tail. There are two cycles to the album, and each one oozes with subtle tension. Much like any circular piece of art, this two ebbs and flows with hope and dismay. Traditional LaMontagne will notice his folksy demeanor is not lost, but it is sometimes replaced with a piano and guitar that unnerve much like a Neutral Milk Hotel album. It’s certainly a bold direction for him at this point, and one I welcome with open arms. Highlights include “Hey, No Pressure” and “In My Own Way”. Be prepared for the length of some songs, though, he tends to go on and on, like that aforementioned snake.

M. Ward – More Rain

Separated from his partner of late (Zooey Deschanel), M Ward has come back into his roots and given us a splendid little folk album. I wasn’t a huge fan of his previous effort, A Wasteland Companion, and this isn’t doing anything particularly new, but I know that if you’re a fan of his vocals and lyricism, this was a genuinely good respite from the recent winter weather. I’ve heard that this takes a look back at some of his earlier work as well, so if you didn’t jump on his bandwagon at the same time I did, you could be happy to hear this news.

The Joy Formidable – “Liana” and “The Last Thing on My Mind”

It’s been a few years since The Joy Formidable sang for us, but with their two new moody singles, we’re in for a treat. Well, mostly with the latter of the two. “Liana” is a bit forgettable, albeit with some neat bass lines dripped in between the nascent lyrics. I’m sure it’ll grow on me as the album approaches, but I’m definitely digging “The Last Thing on My Mind”. Much like songs from some of the rougher albums I liked last year from Dead Sara and Cage the Elephant, I can see this playing on my favorite Philly station, Radio 104.5.

Years & Years – Communion

Spritely and game to dance, this album is a bit of a cluster of sound – one of which I’m not really a fan of. The vocals drone on a bit, but the beat does aptly get you moving, so I think if you’re a fan of this style of music, it’s at least good background noise. Unfortunately that’s not enough for me, so if you’re a casual fan of electropop, there’s no reason to take a chance on this.

Icona Pop – “Someone Who Can Dance

On the other hand, I’ve always been a big advocate of Icona Pop’s sound. They were a tad underrated even with their big showstopping hit “I Love It” back in 2012 – even so with it being the theme to equal one-hit wonder reality series Snooki & JWoww. In a campy way, their first -self-titled- album, was a lot of fun, and I was highly anticipating what they would do next. This is a little bit straightforward, but it’s catchy and hopefully will continue their trend and allow them to get back into the limelight. Much more potent than Years & Years at the very least…

Lights – “Meteorites”

I’ve wanted to enjoy Lights for so long now it seemed inevitable that I would be let down yet again by this song. At once saccharine and genuinely earnest, Canadian songstress Lights has long been apt at constructing beautiful ballads that surely entice someone into delving into her material. For some reason, this just isn’t my cup of tea. I am still unable to pinpoint it, because she’s certainly right up my alley. Doe-eyed, contralto timbre, and romantic groove with a pop touch, perhaps the edge of a folk sound – but something lies just off good quality for me. Check it out for yourself, it’s obviously good to someone. Also, this is absolutely the best song I’ve heard from her yet. Maybe she’ll grow on me someday, much like Annie Clark did finally, five years after her debut.

The Boxer Rebellion – “Big Ideas” and “Keep Me Close”

Grandiose in nature, The Boxer Rebellion’s first single off the upcoming album  is full of “Big Ideas”. Following up where they left off with the great 2014 track “Always”, they imagine themselves as an improved version of Bastille or Imagine Dragons. “Keep Me Close” is gloomier, more foreboding, yet the bombast is still there. I’ll certainly like to keep these tracks in mind for my year end list, but it’s likely both will end up just missing. They’re decent, but not the grandeur the band is probably looking for – let’s say Foster the People-lite.

Lily & Madeline – Keep it Together

I was a big advocate for these sisters, right after taking a listen to their debut EP Fumes dropped in 2014. The harmony the girls produce is otherworldly, and it quickly became a constant spin in my car, or when I was reading something as background music. They’re perfect for that kind of listen – the background during a novel, the soundtrack to your nap in a hammock on a spring afternoon. This album had a lot to live up to, and while it isn’t as great as that first album, it was nearly impossible that it would improve upon anything. Luckily, the quality hasn’t diminished too much, and the songs “Hourglass” and ” prove they’re an underrated force to reckon with. Get on this bandwagon quick, before they finally hit it big!


 

Well that’s pretty much it. Tune in March 28th for our next edition, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep this thing….on track.

 

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