Music to Your Ears – Kimbra, Ariana Grande and Bishop Briggs

It’s about time we get back to basics – I’ve been having some thoughts about this whole thing and there are bigger fish in the sea doing this, so I’m not overly concerned with this getting very well noticed. It’s always been a time capsule for Cory and myself to look back on our tastes in each year. The lists are the most important thing. For now, we’ll do music when we feel – and I’ve always liked the previews for the new television season, and sports when they pop up. We’ll see if it ever goes further than that, but I don’t consider myself an expert in any of it, particularly because everything entertainment is subjective.

Anyway, we’ve got the resurgence of one of my most-liked songstresses from a few years back, another I didn’t realize had even emerged, another whose place in history is now heavily relevant, and a band whose presence hasn’t been felt in a long time…

Kimbra – Primal Heart

I’ve been in….a lonely place this past week. So it’s a bit ironic that in the deepest of those depths emerges a song from Kimbra where she tackles that exact feeling. It’s a bit of a sign, and this has helped rescue me – at least for a moment. That’s what this whole album reverberates like – a rescue beacon that wants you to exude the icy harshness of winter and reveal yourself to the spring symphonically. Lucky for me, and I dare say you, you’re in for some of the most innovative dream-electronic pop this side of St. Vincent. I wrote Kimbra off after her god-awful (yes! sorry!) duet with Gotye, “Somebody That I Used To Know. Yes, the one that was cascaded with accolades including the Grammy for Record of the Year. It’s an affront on ears everywhere, but I digress. Boy, this review is bipolar. Which brings me back, as the instrumentals are plenty bipolar as well. Kimbra may have felt like a carbon coby of that beautiful genre of quirky manic pixie dream girl synth-pop (see: 2011’s Vows) but she’s furthest from it here. You started to hear that experimentalization begin to flourish on 2014’s The Golden Echo, but I had wanted something in between the two. I think Kimbra’s found the right balance between oddity and brevity. No song overdoes it, but lures you in with just the right amount of alacrity. I think Vance Joy has a bit of competition for album of the year already.

Key Tracks – Recovery / Top of the World / Human

Bishop Briggs – Church of Scars

I didn’t realize that this was the singer behind mega-hit “River”. I took a chance because my favorite radio station was raving about her, and it appears that there’s at least some good reason. She’s certainly a talent, but there’s a bit of repetition in each track on her debut album. The simplicity of “Water” provides a brilliant backdrop for us to hear her range, and when it lets her voice take the forefront, Briggs shines. It’s a shame then, that the noise surrounding her nearly swallows her whole. What need is there for finger-snapping percussion or bass-thumping trumpets? I’d rather here an acoustic set at this point, or see her live, because she has such a great talent that it’s worrisome to be wasted inside this overwhelming production. The whole thing reminds me a little of when John Legend’s Keith gets Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian to sell out his musical talents for musical mush. If given a real opportunity, perhaps she can shine like I think she might. The record starts off with “River” and a few pulse-pounding songs, but they give way to a handful of softer tempos that allow us to truly revel in Briggs’ voice. Let’s hope this at least gives her a platform to get bigger and have us all hear her.

Key Tracks: White Flag / Water / This Fire

Ariana Grande – “No Tears Left To Cry”

Let’s play out the same tired warble-debutante pop ballads, and you’ll get what you’d expect from the first twenty seconds of Ariana’s first single on her upcoming fourth album. Suddenly there’s a left turn, with the electro-pop beat jumping from a meek 100bpm to a hearty 122. If nothing else, it woke me up. The lyrics are nothing to sniff at, but we were all curiou what Grande would do for her first message post-Manchester, and this is a solid, respectful track that jives with what she’s stood for her whole career. Looking forward to the full thing, for once.

A Perfect Circle – Eat the Elephant

It’s been a lengthy fourteen years since the last time Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel got together and bestowed upon us some musical brilliance. Lucky for us they finally found some time to work out a bit of auditory magic, and it’s suprisingly….reserved? I know A Perfect Circle was always the more contemplative outlet for Keenan’s writing, but the soft touch Howerdel’s guitar gives their words is the lightest I’ve ever heard from the supergroup. “The Contrarian” and “The Doomed” sound like a Faulkner-penned version of The Odd Couple, but they actually have just as much in common as you would expect from that obtuse reference. Keenan barely raises above a whisper, letting the guitar guide us down the river. If not for a smattering of percussion, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t the Howerdel Hour. I’m actually proud of them for turning in something so introverted yet emblematic of their original message. I’m looking forward to them becoming the Terence Malick of grunge, ready to burst forth with annual albums.

Key Tracks: Disillusioned / By and Down the River / So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Don’t expect this to be a regular thing, kid. You know the deal, I come visit with cigarettes every once in a while. Next week we have We Are Scientists, Janelle Monae…while May has a good release each week. Okay, don’t give me that face. I’ll see what I can do, work something out with your mother.

What if I told you a couple stories, let you know what I thought were the best albums of the past decade? I’ll give you a year a piece, if you want. Sure, I’ll tell you a couple of years real soon.

See you soon, kiddo.


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