Category Archives: Music to Your Ears

Music to Your Ears – Florence and the Machine, Gorillaz and Best of Spring 2018!

Distractions are no fun – with my birthday this past week and work consuming most hours, I fell behind on patching together the next handful of reviews. Let’s dive in to some recent music (really just stuff from the end of June):

Florence + the Machine – High as Hope

Cue the waterworks, Flo is on fire here. I think I mentioned in the preview review for stellar single “Hunger” that I think she’s an even better orator than Adele, pulling off her style with some flair. “Kiss with a Fist” seems a distant grungy memory now, with ten tracks dedicated to rough breakups, hardship, and finding hope in fellow female rock stars. The often serious lyrics are undercut by such melodious intonations that you’re taken aback by the craft presented by the South London performer. This is simply a must listen, an emotional sitdown with one of our most talented singers.

Key Tracks: Hunger / Big God / Patricia

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Music to Your Ears: Nine Inch Nails, Bebe Rexha and Panic! at the Disco

Short on big releases this week, we have a trio for you:

Panic! at the Disco – Pray for the Wicked

Brendon Urie is at it again – his style blossoming further and further out there to orgasmic pop instrumentals. The higher his voice goes on any given track, the trumpets echo even louder, or the keyboards resound his vitality and virulence. The party has seemingly never stopped since his epic album Death of a Bachelor two years ago. Uberfans will be thrilled that its much of the same, and it’s not quite just a repeat of that album. While it’s heavy on the danceable downbeats, there’s a lightheartedness that even evaded that better album. For the past decade Urie has been trying to prove himself worthy of heading a band that once commanded an entire quartet. Like many of the best bands, this album feels influenced by all its previous efforts, but it feels most of all like Urie’s coming out party. He knows he’s fully succeeded at making the band his own, and the brand the first album indicated all four members had bought into. For a moment (Vice and Virtues) no one was sure he would be quite as capable at continuing the party, but this proves naysayers wrong. The range between ebullient confidence (“High Hopes”) and fear of failure (“King of the Clouds”) provides for a tapestry not seen since that first album, a moment that elevates Urie’s songwriting to permanent upper-crust status. Plus you can never go wrong with a funk-fueled trumpet dance-off (“The Overpass”). I’m certain this party can rage for years to come.

Key Tracks: High Hopes / Dancing’s Not a Crime / The Overpass

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Music to Your Ears – Nas, Dave Matthews Band, Christina Aguilera and Mike Shinoda

With the World Cup last week, it became apparent that I was only going to get one article done. I chose that timely sports highlight, and figured I could compound the last two weeks together. In fact, there was really enough from both weeks to fill one week, so it all worked out just fine. Here’s what we’re listening to for the dog days of summer:

Dave Matthews Band – Come Tomorrow

Our first stop, which came last week, was the highlight of my week for two reasons – I went to both of his Philly shows over the weekend! Truly I became immediately enraptured with this latest work from Dave Matthews and his band, and it is considerably well produced in light of following two lesser albums from the group. I wonder if there’s something to do with the bravado this band exudes in the face of darkness surrounding us in the outside world. For two nights in the BB&T Pavilion, it felt like Dave’s music could still save us and left us with hope for a better and more peaceful world, in spite of what was happening in the country around us. That’s what this album represents, and with intricately sublime guitar magic alongside his longtime fellow members Carter Beauford (drums), Stefan Lessard (bass) and Tim Reynolds (lead guitar). Dave stretches his voice in the remarkable “That Girl Is You” but he never overextends his welcome, easing back into the instrumentals on the intro to “Black and Blue Bird” – the incomprehensibly titled “bkdkdkdd”. Never doubt the fun this band has, even if it’s a language all their own.

Key Tracks: Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin) / That Girl Is You / Do You Remember

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Music to Your Ears – Kanye West, Father John Misty and Gorillaz

Never mind, there was plenty to talk about this week! Owl City is joined by ye himself, in a self-titled personal memoir inscribed with the statement “I hate being bi-polar, it’s awesome”. There’s also new stuff from Gorillaz, Neko Case and a surprisingly deft cover of Toto’s “Africa” by everyone’s favorite California neverbloomers:

Kanye West – ye

A musician’s career is a strange beast. None have been scrutinized in the past decade, I believe, as America’s beloved Kanye West. With his latest album releasing this past Friday, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that he’s either aging out of his own genre or losing grip on reality itself. I know he’s capable of something artistically majestic; he gave us My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. By now, he’s reveling in his broken-ness. It’s somewhat a shame to watch Kanye go down this rabbit hole, as I think there’s still something left in the tank before he’s cast off to the elder statesman role. Maybe he’s just trolling us with the first few tracks, because the real meat of ye is in the second half, where Kid Cudi and Charlie Wilson drop in for “No Mistakes” and there are other uncredited guest spots from Cudi and a phenomenal find in 070 Shake, rescuing the lost cause in “Ghost Town”. I’m actually sort of disappointed that the last track, “Violent Crimes” ends so abruptly, as the album was starting to heat up right at the wrong moment.

Key Tracks: Ghost Town / No Mistakes / Violent Crimes

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Music to Your Ears – Chvrches, Snow Patrol and Courtney Barnett

Another week, another double dose forced because of busy work weekends. Actually, this weekend was our frequent podcast guest Jeff Seesselberg’s birthday – the big 3-0. So there was a pretty good reason I didn’t get a chance to slip this into the site, as I was working and helping to prep our big camping trip. Heck, I’m lucky I managed to see Solo at any point. As it is, last week was a bit slim with content (Now, Now and Courtney Barnett are our highlights). This week saw perhaps my favorite band releasing their third album (Chvrches – Love is Dead) and an old favorite, Snow Patrol, returning after a seven-year hiatus. Let’s check it all out:

Florence and the Machine – “Hunger”

The stark open, detailing an anorexia analogy for young love, positions Florence as the edgier version of Adele, the right shoulder devil to her left angel. She paints a feeling all too familiar, of unrequited adoration settled in past innocence. Ms Welch has grown considerably since the dog days of Kiss With a Fist, and this foretells a stellar record later this month. Her signature warble anchors us by the time the instrumentals strike up, otherwise we would sink underneath the weight of the metaphor. It’s a powerful punch, and one that will likely be bolstered by subsequent singles.

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Music to Your Ears – Childish Gambino, Matt and Kim, Arctic Monkeys and Beach House

Pro tip for life, folks: never get a job! I kid, of course! Seriously though, all my time has been taken up this past week and a half. Although I’ve listened to all this a handful of times, I’ve been driving more than sleeping, which loses the afforded time to type such feelings up. Since I ended up skipping last week’s stuff, it’s just mashed in with the following week’s for a double dose of Music straight to Your damn Ears:

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

I was not prepared enough for this. Arctic Monkeys may have put out a bad record, and the first telltale sign is that singer Alex Turner starts the proceedings off by muttering “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes”. Didn’t we all? I figured they were better than this pseudo-meta reference, but it devolves from there in a talk-sing existential experiment (“Star Treatment”) and then wanders aimlessly through dull attempts at love ballads. It’s just a little too weird for them, and somehow simultaneously not strange enough. Some spacey synths do not cover incapable lyrics. Maybe they could have taken a page from their spirtual cousins The Good, the Bad and the Weird (Damon Albarn’s 2006 side project) by branching out instrumentally. That’s not really the case here, as they simply riff on their one big hit from the 2013 comeback album AM: “Do I Wanna Know?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the band, and I don’t begrudge myself feeling so poorly about this showcase. It’s rather disappointing to find that the band is merely coasting on past flourishes instead of reinventing themselves continuously as they had for their first five albums. In fact, it’s mostly because of the five-year gap that I’m truly disappointed. All this time, and you gave me not much of anything?

Key Tracks: Four Out of Five / Science Fiction / She Looks Like Fun (yes, the back half gets better)

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Music to Your Ears – Janelle Monae, Keith Urban and We Are Scientists

Welcome back, I’m a little late, but that’s ok. We’re in week two of an onslaught of bands I’m a big fan of, so this spring is shaping up nicely. Last week was Kimbra, this time we’re taking a look at the newest effort from We Are Scientists. Does it stand up to previous releases? Let’s dive in:

Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

Janelle Monae is a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure. Her new album Dirty Computer is a classic in the making, as long as her instrumentals don’t get in the way. Much like last week’s Bishop Briggs release, there is a clear quality difference between Monae’s vocals and the pedestrian background noise. However, Monae has a step up on Briggs, by adding a handful of guests that liven up the proceedings. The third single, “Pynk” features long-missed artist Grimes, and it’s a welcome recovery for her. The album opens with a revealing collaboration with Brian Wilson that showcases plenty of rollercoaster articulations blending with Wilson’s top-notch piano. Pharrell makes an appearance late in the album, and after that the songs sort of drift away. It’s a heavily enjoyable album that teeters on the edge of classic or trifle, as I’m even struggling to remember it a few days later. I think it deserves a few listens, though, for Monae’s performance alone.

Key Tracks: Pynk / I Got the Juice / Django Jane

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