Welcome back to this week’s version of Music to Your Ears, where we’ve got some tunes for your listeners. This week had a few surprise singles, as well as some inspired albums. Take a look:
Foo Fighters – “Run”
It’s been a while since the last Foo Fighters album, the Saint Cecilia EP that appeared briefly on our radars a little over a year and a half ago. For proper album music, we have to go back to 2014, so this is a welcome surprise in a week we’ve been hungry for escapism music. At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the repetitive message – “Run” – that blared over a low-key chorus. It sounded to me like more of the same, and Foo Fighters might just be spinning their wheels. Then an aggressively metal sounded voice threatened to break through from the other side of the microphone, as Dave Grohl’s old self came along to let us know that the same guy can learn new tricks. The true chorus of the song is still a bit rock-2010s standard, but it’s still a welcome thought to have that Grohl and company are back, making the most of their talents.
Arcade Fire – “Everything Now”
Like most bands of the ‘aughts, Arcade Fire’s sound has evolved, particularly since their first album, the ethereal Funeral, which contained one of my favorite songs from that time period, “Neighborhood 2 (Laika)”. That track, one that contains the adolescent innocence of two neighbor kids discovering each other as well as the paranoia of a world waiting to crush them both down, is not exemplary of what Arcade Fire has become, although that probably tempers their emotions while playing live. “Everything Now” re-defines the message the band is going for, and like many groups playing into their thirties and beyond, accepts the fact that they didn’t die young and beautiful, but must figure out what that means for their longevity. An acceptance of that soul-crushing world is subtly creeping below lyrics like “Every inch of space in your head / is filled with the things that you’ve read”. They’ve just gotten better at masking the pain it details below danceable music, like a more prophetic Ra Ra Riot. Here’s hoping this title track is as good as the full album.
Halsey – hopless fountain kingdom
Okay, Halsey. You can start your album with the prologue to William Shakespeare’s most famous play, but I’m gonna think you’re really damn pretentious. Though, when one thinks about it, isn’t Romeo and Juliet one of the most effective narratives of artistic entertainment? Why not have it, when it’s clearly well known and there’s a reason the thing is popular? It will absolutely have an effect on the listening of your album, as it will color every track with a sentiment that you might have not only been inspired by the Bard’s classic, but that you yourself felt the same emotions that young Montague and Capulet shared in their brief time together. Shut your blinkers in “Eyes Closed” and you’ll wonder if Juliet was truly up for her romance. Listen between the late-90s inspired violins on “Walls Could Talk” and the lyrics remind you of Juliet’s nurse regretting what she’s done. While there’s a lot to read into, it’s obvious that Halsey has put out a well-defined production. All in all, the best part of this is that the album keeps going long before you’ve realised it, albeit in a slight 48 minutes. Even though this is her sophomore performance, Halsey is a welcome addition to those rebel chanteuses bursting on to the alternative electropop scene. This is a delightful precursor to Lorde’s upcoming album as well.
Key Tracks: Eyes Closed / Heaven in Hiding / Sorry
Bleachers – Gone Now
The Solomon Grundy lyrics that effuse themselves behind the opening track to Gone Now, “Dream of Mickey Mantle” tell its listeners that they’re in for something a bit different, albeit the obvious next step for Jack Antonoff in his storytelling since leaving band Fun behind. My friend Mike Duquette (founder of the stellar reissue blog and label The Second Disc) summed it up best after listening to the album this past weekend – “Imagine if Bruce Springsteen got way too into synthpop before Tunnel of Love“. In my opinon, the album as a whole reminds me of late-era Ben Folds after leaving behind his five. He almost talks to you like Folds did, and Antonoff includes several friends in semi-secret cameos, such as Lorde on the second verse of “Don’t Take the Money” or Carly Rae Jepsen joining in for the chorus of “Hate That You Know Me”. Those cameos elevate the songs, not that Antonoff needed it, for his vocals are indeed like Bruce in the prime of his career. If there’s any faults to find here, it’s that the back half of the albums slumps a bit, much like his first album Strange Desire. Also, while I’m satisfied with what I’ve heard, there’s a good and a bad take here. I like Strange Desire better as a whole, but Antonoff is at least attempting to branch out stylistically with each song. Most tracks from the former sound virtually the same, something I didn’t mind at the time, but I have a feeling Gone Now will resonate longer.
Key Tracks: Hate That You Know Me / I Miss Those Days / Don’t Take the Money
Dan Auerbach – Waiting on a Song
This is what we all needed this week, a chill folk guitar hammock album. When I worked in Best Buy from 2009-2012, I would listen to a handful of records on my Zune (dating myself of course) when I put new signage up before the store opened. One of those was Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and the Black Keys’ Brothers. Those two albums always felt intrinsically linked, and here Auerbach has somehow melded the feel both prior efforts captured for me. As he opens his thoughts to us, I can’t help but to think of Morrison’s humming a tune about how much his woman loves him. Auerbach has a way of stylising himself as a second coming of that era in American culture that we were looking for an outlet to both express ourselves against the man while also chilling out beneath the shade of an apple orchard. This album certainly encompasses that feeling, from the trumpets slipping between “Malibu Man” and lazily wandering around “Never in My Wildest Dreams” to the acoustic temperament of “King of a One Horse Town”. The only oddity here is the single “Cherrybomb” that definitively sounds more like a b-side from the Black Keys last album Turn Blue. It feels slightly out of place, despite it being a solid entry in Auerbach’s overall output.
Key Tracks: Livin’ in Sin / Stand by My Girl / King of a One Horse Town
Remember to come back next week to see new hits from Katy Perry, one final album from the impossibly timeless Glen Campbell, and maybe a few surprises?
I’ll also leave you with this brief (and better) review of Dan Auerbach, attached to that Bleachers comment from Mike Duquette: