Music to Your Ears – The Shins, Charli XCX and Bush

Welcome back to another edition of Music to Your Ears! Enjoy!

Lorde – Liability

Another week, another Lorde single. After last weekend’s bombastic re-introduction to the Kiwi songstress, she returns with a dialed-down balladic ode to misunderstood broken hearts. Sounds typical of the artist, right? Well, the tone and actual vocals lend themselves to a faster beat, but she opts to slow the whole thing down, allowing us to revel in her instrumentals. That actually turns out to be an unfortunate choice, as Lorde is often at her fiercest when hurling stinging messages in rapid fire fashion. If you read the lyrics as a poem, they’re even better than the song turned out. I’m not going to fault her whole album on the back of this, as “Green Light” is one of my top choices for the year already, but this could have been much better. Basically, lyrics top notch, follow-through a bit dull.

The Shins – Heartworms

With Snowstorm Stella fast decimating our delicate Northeastern sensibilites, we cry out for Blanche and wish she would deliver unto us a sunnier forecast for St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, the only bright spot on the horizon is that James Mercer delivered that much needed sunshine, in the dofrm of a new album with his band The Shins. Infectious cotton candy pop rock has long been a staple of Mercer’s diet, and this new release may be the sweetest yet. With songs like “Cherry Hearts” and “Name for You” they’ve proven once again why Natalie Portman once told Zach Braff and the rest of us that this band was going to change our lives. Float away to “Fantasy Island” and recall a time when love songs spilled forth like a saccharine froth at the edge of the shore. For us, even though the honeymoon once winced the night away, here Mercer allows us to renew our vows with the band. Hopefully this one will be rotated though the rest of spring, because it’s more like Earworms than Heartworms.

Key Tracks: “Cherry Hearts”, “Mildenhall”, “Heartworms”

Bush – Black and White Rainbows

I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t realize Bush had even broken up for eight years, basically the 2000s…but I do recall 2010’s The Sea of Memories being a sweet comeback for the group. Well, this release is a suitably adequate continuation of this iteration of the Gavin Rossdale-led outfit. While as a whole, the album starts off like typical old-school Bush, the visceral vocals of Rossdale infuse themselves onto the lyrics of longing in “Water” and “Lost in You”. It’s clear the loss of Gwen Stefani had some effect on his songwriting, but it’s worth it as this is some of the sharpest he’s produced in years. The album plays out a little like he’s repeating himself, like he’s lost, but one thing is for sure – Bush still makes some fine music.

Key Tracks: “Water”, “The Beat of Your Heart”

Charli XCX – Number 1 Angel

I was a huge fan of Charli’s participation in the hit single “Boom Clap” from The Fault in Our Stars, as well as her contribution to Icona Pop’s huge debut “I Love It”. So why don’t I love what she’s done solo? It’s strange that her vocals could be too soulless, but take a look at “Dreamer” the opening track on her new mixtape – it’s meandering fluff, with an immediately forgettable hook that doesn’t add anything by including singers Raye or Starrah. The songs get better, and Charlotte’s songwriting helps that, but the bedroom style pop is nothing to write home about, unfortunately.

Key Tracks: “3 AM”


 

Well, so far so good on keeping up with a weekly column. Let’s see if I can round out March – we have some great stuff coming up from Spoon, Pitbull, Mastodon and even Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan!

 

 

 

 

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