Category Archives: Music to Your Ears

Music to Your Ears – Franz Ferdinand, MGMT and Dashboard Confessional

What, is it nostalgia week? We’ve got releases from early-2000s emo mainstay Dashboard Confessional, as well as my personal favorite edition of that wave of British indie-pop that crossed over at the time – plus we have a new record from that influential late-2000s rock outfit MGMT. Let’s dive in:

Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending

I’ve been waiting years for Franz Ferdinand to finally return to form. With 2009’s Tonight, the Glaswegian foursome had made it clear they were in love with their more ethereal efforts, with dreamscape dissonations like “Twilight Omens” and “Lucid Dreams” paving the way for their blueprint sound over the next eight years, including their uncomfortable collaboration with Sparks in 2015. Lucky for longtime fans, they skipped that beat and bring us back with the best of both worlds. Songs like “Lazy Boy” and “Feel the Love Go” remind us of that distinct Kapranos growl from early tracks like “Dark of the Matinee” and “You’re the Reason I’m Leaving”. The instrumentals seem to be harsher again as well – and while they’re not as inventive as earlier stuff, there’s an acknowledgment that they’d let the rough edges seemed to fade with later albums. A mixture of that early sound with the delicate crash from Right Thoughts makes for at least a happy reformation.

The unfortunate side effect of the band’s renewal is that longtime bassist Nick McCarthy left the band to focus on his family. In his stead the band recruited Julian Corrie (Miaoux Miaoux) and Dino Bardot (1990s) to fill in on guitar and a handful of other instruments. The result is seamless, with Corrie ably smashing out instrumentals like he’s been there the whole time. (Bardot will begin by touring and wasn’t featured on the album itself.) My guess is that the spark they found with their two new bandmates makes for a stellar stage show, but the studio sound still needs some smoothing out. I’m all for it, and hope to see them in April, with a future hope for even more in the long run.

Key Tracks – Paper Cages / Finally / Feel the Love Go / Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Franz Ferdinand, MGMT and Dashboard Confessional

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Music to Your Ears – Dream Wife, First Aid Kit and AWOLNATION

This week we have new albums from England, Sweden, California and….the forest? Well, superstar Justin Timberlake, hot off the Super Bowl halftime show is proud to present his latest production, a re-imagining with his worst Kris Kristofferson impression. This and all the tracks I’ve been listening to in the past week:

Dream Wife – Dream Wife

This is a pretty good fucking album, just trust me. I had a better way of expressing it, and had written a lengthy enough review to be satisfied, but WordPress lost it all on me, and that’s left me plenty pissed. You know who else sounds pissed? Dream Wife, on this whole record. Not sure who they’re pissed at, but it’s a brilliant anger to rock along to and let that anger diffuse out of you. This Brighton outfit by way of Iceland sounds a bit like Wolf Alice by way of Ida Maria, and that suits me just fine. Hard-hitting Hey Heartbreaker will hoist you up and let you know exactly where you’re going with this debut album, a sleigh 35 minutes of pure adrenaline. Take their word for it, they don’t really need me to scream their virtue from the rooftops – they’ll do that with these eleven tracks.

Key Tracks: Love Without Reason / F.U.U. / Somebody

First Aid Kit – Ruins

You like Eisley? This reminds me of Eisley, but with a bit of a twang in their step. The first few songs off the album could easily have been from early Eisley stuff, and strangely enough, the two bands had a concurrent trajectory. I’m a bit sad I missed out on the group’s earlier efforts, and promise to look into them for future articles, but for now you can settle in and comfort yourself with some folksy ballads with smart lyrics that will sooth any problems away…singer-songwriter sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg have been doing this since 2007, but I wager that this is the album that will push them into the stratosphere.

Key Tracks: It’s a Shame / To Live a Life / Fireworks

Justin Timberlake – Man of the Woods

This is rough, folks, and not in the way you’d expect from such a ‘rugged’ title. Given that this is the same man that asked us to cry him a river, what did we truly expect? There’s  something to be said for a pop artist that attempts to shoehorn himself into a certain style that was never inherently his, and it shows, terribly. I believe, when I first listened to his solo work back in 2007, I was blinded by my surroundings. A friend had me listen to ‘Sexy Back’ while I stood in front of the Jan Hus monument in the center of Prague, very possibly my favorite spot on Earth. So I apologize if I was ignorant of what was really less of a boy-bander breaking free of his bonds and more of a pop star appropriating some culture from around him. Unfortunately, beyond all the hubbub behind the scenes, it’s rapidly forgettable. When the Neptunes produced tracks pop up, there’s a small perk, but it largely reminded me of when listening to November’s Taylor Swift album Reputation, and really only liking any of the Jack Antonoff written tracks. It just made me want to listen to his own album Gone Now. This makes me long for a true Neptunes album, rather than a lackluster N*E*R*D release or solo contributions. I can’t see this having the legs that his first three albums had, and with the backlash around his personal decisions (working with notorious directors, etc.) it may be that he has a lot of work to do to redeem himself. Maybe he can take a cue from Janet Jackson on how to do so.

Key Tracks: Midnight Summer Jam / Montana / Higher, Higher

AWOLNATION – Here Come the Runts

Vocalist Aaron Bruno has a knack for picking out the best songs from each release to present as a single – and this is no different. ‘Handyman’ is the clear frontrunner on an album full of pretty basic tunes, albeit if you’ve always loved him this will suit you fine. The album starts strangely, a repetitive title hook that goes nowhere. Luckily he gets back to his old habits on the next track, ‘Passion’ and smoothly transitions from one electro-funk sensation to the next. Not a classic by any means, but it will definitely stretch us down the road to the end of winter.

Key Tracks: Miracle Man / Seven Sticks of Dynamite / Handyman


Well that’s it for now folks. Next we have the very (my) anticipated return of Franz Ferdinand, as well as old-school emo crooners Dashboard Confessional and electro-alternative rockers MGMT. Join in the nostalgia fest!

Music to Your Ears – Camila Cabello, Fall Out Boy and the Hell Yeah Babies

Well we’re now in the full swing of things for Music to Your Ears – as I was a bit busy preparing the 2018 Edgars for you all, I missed a handful of new releases. Here’s the highlights and lowlights of what I’ve listened to in the past few weeks:

Camila Cabello – Camila

‘Havana’ is a soft banger for sure, and it will definitely be inhabiting clubs long after this review has turned to dust. The shame of this all is that Cabello is a much better singer than this album allows – if she were truly given something challenging, she could take over the world. Between the humdrum lyrics and run-of-the-mill beats behind her, you can hear a true vocal master lying in wait for a chance to prove herself. A week after initially listening and I couldn’t tell any of these other tracks apart. It’s a shame, and here’s hoping this stays popular enough to let her spread her wings.

Key Tracks: Havana, I guess?

Fall Out Boy – M A N I A

Full disclosure here: I’ve been waiting for this to come to fruition for a while. This up-and-coming band has been lighting up Brooklyn and Manhattan clubs for the past few years and they’ve managed to finally release a full EP! Don’t worry all, this is definitely a lot of fun. There are certainly a few growing pains – some songs sound exactly the same, the lyrics are sometimes a bit goofy – but it’s all in good fun. If you want a similar sound before you dive into this, take what I thought of immediately: a modern-day version of The Oneders (Wonders) from Tom Hanks hit film That Thing You Do!. Let’s hope they don’t end up facing the same fate. When their best songs hit, they’re really danceable gems, and that’s all you want from a power-pop band, isn’t it?

Key Tracks: Grenadine Nosebleeds / Ms. Miss Me Yet / Vampire Girlfriend

The Decemberists – “Severed”

Your favorite folk-pop confederation is back – that’s right, after vocalizing a Lin-Manuel Miranda penned ballad to Benjamin *fucking* Franklin, Colin Meloy and copmany are back with the first single from their upcoming album I’ll Be Your Girl. The futuristic synth is welcome, if not surprising, but once Meloy’s vocals kick in alongside the rough-riding drums, you know you’re in for something completely innovative from the long-term merrymakers. I’m really pumped for this new album, all of a sudden.


Well, that’s it for now. Hopefully by the next edition, we’ll have a great deal more to have delved into. Most of the past three weeks has been listening to the best original songs from film in 2017….so I promise I’ll pick it up later.

 

Music to Your Ears – Justin Timberlake, The Vaccines, I’m With Her

I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the outcome to our first annual Music to Your Ears single bracket, and here we are:

The Killers “Run for Cover” wins Best Song of the Year over Haim’s “Want You Back!

Thanks all who voted this year, and hopefully we’ll be back again next December even bigger and better than before!

Now, without further adieu, are the first new singles of 2018:

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Justin Timberlake, The Vaccines, I’m With Her

Music to Your Ears – Music Bracket Finals and Top Five Albums

Here you go, it all comes down to this:  and are the two best tracks from 2017, according to our readers. Which one will come out on top? That’s up to you to decide, faithful followers!

Our final showdown of the year involves one of the lowest seeds, a rarity in brackets – but for good reason, it’s the hit single “Want You Back” from Haim. The sister trio out of California faces off against their neighbors from Nevada – The Killers, with their big return in “Run for Cover”.

Take a listen once again, to refresh your memory:

 


Now, for additional reading pleasure, are my top five albums of 2017:

5) Spoon – Hot Thoughts

As is often the case with bands you’ve loved for a decade or more, it’s difficult to continue loving each and every album they put out. It’s usually lightning in a bottle when you capture their sound for the first time, and a battle for quality in your mind spreads over their subsequent work. Spoon has generally been good for me, but their last two albums, 2010’s Transference and 2014’s They Want My Soul were lackluster to say the least. What a relief that Britt Daniel and company got back on their game with this album, a fresh funky dance groove that wants you to shake off the dust of your bad feelings. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

What I Said Then (3/22): “I love when an album comes together like this, reminding you of all their best moments, while still imagining new adventures for the crew. This is likely my favorite album this year so far.”

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Music Bracket Finals and Top Five Albums

Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Final Four plus Albums

The underdogs keep rolling as literally all four match-ups had upset defeats – that leaves us with a final four of:

The boys from Vegas are inviting the Englishman for a duel for the ages:

Take a listen again to refresh your memory:

The sister trio is facing off against the New Zealand import:

Hear them again to finalize your vote:

 

Now, for some additional enjoyment, here’s the first five of my favorite albums of the year:

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Final Four plus Albums

Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Elite Eight and Honorable Mentions

Well, there’s already been some surprising upsets in our first bracket music challenge! Both our 1st and 2nd seeds were knocked out (some may say our voters have no heart) as Selena Gomez fell to Liam Gallagher and Carly Rae Jepsen fell to Haim. Without further adieu, here’s the elite eight:

First, we have the British invading the States again as Liam Gallagher takes on St. Vincent:

It’s all about cardio in our second match-up as Cold War Kids try to unseat the racing Killers single:

Underrated Jidenna pops up in our third face-off, where he tries to fend of the sister trio Haim:

Kesha continues strong, but faces fierce competition from similar songstress Lorde:

Now, as for those songs that didn’t make the cut – some were victims of overexposure (Feel It Still, Portugal. the Man) and some were simply a victim of my strict sixteen limits. Anyway, here’s six extra songs for your enjoyment:

Honorable Mentions:

Edge of Town – Middle Kids

Early this year, a new band emerged out of Australia with a three-song EP. This snappy garage rocker earwormed its way into my head, and positioned this band as one of the artists I’m most excited about in the coming year. Eagerly anticipating their full release, we can live inside this for now – a mix of Yeah Yeah Yeahs tremble from vocalist Alex Lahey and guitar work that feels straight out of tour mates Cold War Kids. Elton John has lauded this tune, and now so am I.

Forgiveness – Paramore

The best song off After Laughter, the crisp follow-up to their best and self-titled 2013 album, ‘Forgiveness’ is a somber look at how heartbreak affects us. Take a look at this section – ‘Cause your voice is a gun / Every word is a bullet hole / Shot a hole in the sun / If I never look up maybe I’ll never notice. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but Hayley Williams has never written anything so poignant and relatable.

Sky Musings – Wolf Alice

As tremulous as the vocals were in Sleigh Bells’ great track ‘And Saints’, singer Ellie Roswell outdoes Alexis Krauss here in the best track off Wolf Alice’s latest album. Almost whipsering, Roswell searches her way under your skin with one of the darkest yet hopeful tracks you’ll hear all year. When you’re young you think your life is over when something drastic happens, but Wolf Alice is here to remind you that there’s plenty of time left to make sure you get it right.

I’m Stuck – Noah Cyrus

Miley’s younger sister nearly stole the show this summer with this catchy love tune that popped up in commercials and trailers all over the place. I hesitate to say it’s better, because I clearly placed ‘Malibu’ in the bracket, but I have higher hopes for where Noah’s future lies. She’s already got the knack for irresistible hooks, and I gather she’ll have the chance to win us over for many songs of the summer to come.

Lay It On Me – Vance Joy

A late entry in this – literally, I heard this again yesterday and realized I knew the lyrics only after a second listen. I’m already a big fan of Vance Joy’s 2013 hit ‘Riptide’ and that song worked its way into my heart over a year. This time it was clearly much faster, and Joy’s infectious vocals are just what we need as the year wraps up. Apparently this developed from a voicemail Joy kept on his phone for some time, and this is the quaint response.

Savage – Lights

I had limited my expectations of Lights singer Valerie Poxleitner after being underwhelmed by her previous efforts. Luckily this year’s Skin&Earth is a brilliant concept album that lives in a fantasy world, something that’s definitely up my weird alley. Somehow nerdier Lights became better Lights, and the best example of that improvement is ‘Savage’. A raucous declaration of unrequited love, Lights has truly outdone herself.

Here’s a full playlist of my top thirty-five songs from 2017: