We’re rounding up the best of the first few months of 2018 here this week at Music for Your Ears. Before that I have a handful of reviews of last week’s new music:
The Vaccines – Combat Sports
I was hotly anticipating this album after their incredible first single “I Can’t Quit”. You’ll even see that track later in this article heading up the Best of Winter playlist. I’ve been playing it nearly nonstop since its release in the first week of January. I’d love to give this album a better grade, but I fear that I may have made it too highly anticipated. I wouldn’t say it’s disappointing, but many of the songs simply sound the same. I’m perfectly happy with the danceable rock outs of “Surfing in the Sky” and “Nightclub” but there weren’t enough like the palpable brake pads in the slowed down “Young American”. I’m also very happy that this band has taken up the reins left behind by their predecessors like the Strokes, Libertines and Oasis. If they keep churning out stuff, I’m happy with this level of quality to even start. I think it’ll take a listen or two more to truly identify if this is one of the best of the year, though.
Key Tracks: I Can’t Quit / Take It Easy / Out on the Street
Matt & Kim – “Happy if You’re Happy” and “Like We Used to Be”
I am thrilled that these two tracks surprised me this past week. I was not expecting anything new from our favorite Brooklyn duo and especially for anything new to be this good. I had a lot of feelings from these, and most of it nostalgic. The titular Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino are a few years older than me and went to the same college as my roommate, so we brushed similar worlds over the past decade. That roommate and I (along with a few other friends) even saw them in my first and – so far – only show at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. There’s something special about the place, and something special I hold in my heart for the band. With that combined with a relatability, I can chalk up my love for these songs to be a bit of a personal investment in their past and future as a band and a couple. Suffice it to say, they make me happy when they’re happy, and if you like them even a little bit, I think these are pretty satisfying teases for their upcoming full-length album.
Kate Nash – Yesterday Was Forever
We’re big fans of Kate Nash here at Music to Your Ears, but mostly for her fun performance in the hit Netflix program GLOW. Not being overly familiar with her music, the appearance gives her a boost for us to give a listen. What we’ve found is the same effervescent ebullience we’ve fallen in love with from her character on the wrestling dramedy. Nash never lets go of the uplifting attitude, sometimes to her detriment, but I was certainly in the mood for some happiness this week. “Life in Pink” earworms its way into your brain off the bat, and from there a combination of catchy hooks and trembling vocals provide the kind of indie drug your ears crave.
Key Tracks: Life in Pink / Always Shining / California Poppies
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
More accessible than your typical country crooner, Kacey Musgraves nearly borders on the pop stylings that Taylor Swift veered towards in her early releases. Musgraves has a more down-to-earth quality though, less manufactured than our pop princess Taylor. Her big single “Space Cowboy” is a bit too on the nose, perhaps her most country-fried crooner. “Velvet Elvis” best exemplifies the spectrum Musgraves is trying to capture, more Michelle Branch than Carrie Underwood. The best part about her is that not every track sounds the same, wavering between fast paced cotton candy to steady love ballads. The right balance provides a satisfying ride, and through thirteen tracks, you’ll find your toes tapping and enough music to get you where you’re going.
Key Tracks: Space Cowboy / Velvet Elvis / Slow Burn
Finally today, here’s the playlist for my favorite songs from these first three months of 2018, the winter period.
I’m surprised that something I just reviewed topped us off, although I did mention it snuck in on the second day of this year. Holding strong alongside it is a single from the upcoming Now, Now record, as well as early singles from The Decemberists, The Wombats and Vance Joy. Muse may not have a record this year, but had an even better single to start out after ‘Dig Down’ did not impress. Anyway, why don’t you dig in and let us know what you think of these 16 songs – which are your favorites, and are there any recommendations you have for us?