Category Archives: Music to Your Ears

Music to Your Ears – Lorde, Fleet Foxes and Nickelback

Whew, after a week that saw very little in the way of worthwhile music, a flood of new tracks and albums came rushing down the pipeline for Father’s Day weekend. Some old favorites return, some new bands form their debuts and there may not even be enough space to talk about it all.

Lorde – Melodrama

Sophomore slumps can strike at any time. Luckily for Lorde, the Australian singer who vaulted to instant stardom amidst Grammy wins in 2013, she took enough time off that people forgot about her. Not that she minded, since the attention was a bit too much for the then sixteen years old. With her maturity comes a sense of relevance, which allows for a fine-tunes production this time around. The songs, all produced hand in hand with Bleachers creator Jack Antonoff, seem so polished that this can’t possibly be as good as we would have hoped for. But it is, seriously, so much so, that it rivals Bleachers, Spoon and The New Pornographers for album of the year so far. I may go on about this album towards the end of year, but suffice it to say the expected sophomore slump never settles in, as Lorde expands her horizons in ways we never expected. From the pain-filled ballad “Writer in the Dark” to the fun romp through “The Louvre” to an ode to late-night parties in “Homemade Dynamite” – the subjects aren’t too different from her teenage years, but her production has certainly stepped up its game.

Key Tracks: Supercut / Liability / The Louvre / Writer in the Dark

The Killers – The Man

The fear each time The Killers approach a new album is what sounds they’ll be attempting to evoke. It’s a long-standing open secret that frontman Brandon Flowers fancies himself a Bruce Springsteen, if born on the outskirts of Las Vegas. In that case, we sometimes get the worst of him – the posturing of Sam’s Town, a heavily divisive album that turned away many of the dance-pop youth that fell in love with them from their debut Hot Fuss. Luckily the die-hards found themselves in for treats with the next two solid, albeit dull efforts – Day & Age and Battle Born. The latter was more Springsteen, but more well done and less bombastic. Let’s say that was Flowers’ Nebraska, a dialed down love affair for the state of the band’s youth. From there Flowers’ embarked on a solo tour with two albums, one the worst of 2010, Flamingo and the other, 2015’s The Desired Effect, which at last had, well, the desired effect – Brandon Flowers had never sounded more like his hero. So, with all that in mind, we temper our expectations for a new song. Lucky for us, Flowers and the Killers have a ‘Wrecking Ball’ for us in the form of a rollicking new song that epitomizes the best qualities of the band’s history. You can dance, you can hear the masculinity oozing its way through the verses, and you can drive your way out of town to it. That’s all you need in a good Killers song.

Nickelback – Feed the Machine

Forgive me for not understanding the backlash to Nickelback all these years. I’ve always thought there were plenty more bands, mundane as all can be subjectively, that deserved harsher credit. For the Canadian outfit, it became particularly galling, and I think that influenced them even more as vocal cord surgeries and label changes attempted to derail the train. To call them mediocre is to do them an injustice, for if you listen to the lyrics, many are often more profound than any number of pop songs circulating constantly on the radio. Take “After the Rain”, a late entry in their newest album Feed the Machine where revitalized frontman Chad Kroeger yelps “The ticket to life as my mother once told me / Stick with your pride and you’re gonna be lonely”. I’m sorry, that’s better than their punk neighbor Justin Bieber begging for a second chance over and over again. To each his own, of course, but I’ve only ever slighted Nickelback in jest. Silver Side Up, easily their best entry, was the blueprint for the subsequent six albums – and now that they’ve proven their longevity, it’s clear that the band was ready to show off their best work. As a casual fan, I have to say that this is their best work in fifteen years. Rock on, you crazy diamonds.

Key Tracks: Feed the Machine / Must Be Nice / Silent Majority

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

Do not, and I repeat, do not attempt this album if you’re on the verge of slumber. It’s been a long time coming, especially for fans of the eloquent somnambulistic vocals emanating from lead singer Robin Peckold’s throat. However, this is not for the weak-hearted, or the coffee-deprived. While the writing and production value is through the roof, the mood is quite soft. Don’t get me wrong, Fleet Foxes is on top of the world here, coming out with an even more refined version of their previous album Helplessness Blues. If the direction they chose was one more in the vein of The Decemberists, where their folk tales are meant to lull rather than inspire, then they’re on the right track. I just think this is better background music than something for a group listen. Take care before sitting down with this, or worse – driving home at midnight to this. You’ll need a shot of Nodoz.

Key Tracks: Kept Woman / If You Need to, Keep Time on Me / Fool’s Errand

Queens of the Stone Age – The Way You Used to Do

Ever since I saw Josh Homme get super-pissed being played out during the credits for the 2014 Grammys, I knew he’d be back with a vengeance. Pure rock these days is a bit marginalized in popular culture, and there are enough thinkpieces out there that deny or confirm that thought, so I don’t need to go into it further. My standing is that with a dearth of rock stations, we’re sorely lacking a true rock band to unite behind. Take your Selena Gomez, your A$AP Rocky, your Beyonce – they’re all great, subjectively – there’s no one out there rocking like Queens of the Stone Age still do. You can’t pidgeonhole them in like Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters, who evolved with the times alongside Green Day, Blink-182 and even latter day Brit rock groups like The Strokes, The Kooks and Muse. Suffice it to say, other than those that evolved or dropped out, Queens of the Stone Age maintained that level we all wanted from rock – hard and loud, but with decipherable lyrics. We want to feel something from our music, not ironically, and Josh Homme has provided the 2017 version of that message: “If the world exploded behind us / I never noticed if it done / Let nobody dare confine us / I’ll bury anyone who does”. Just keep us up to date, Josh, and we’ll keep rocking along with you.

Hey Violet – From the Outside

I’ve got some odd feelings about this – it sounds like it’s of a place and time I’m no longer a part of, which I also feel makes me sound a bit old. If you recall the days when Paramoras starting out, about a decade ago, one of the most popular albums was Avril Lavigne’s The Best Damn Thing. Pink was still punk, having just released I’m Not Dead and yelled about fuckboys before we knew what they were. Now that time has passed, we’re on the lookout for the next group to take the charge – perhaps it could be Hey Violet, how about that? With songs like “O.D.D.” and “Hoodie”, they definitely might have the case for crowning a new queen of pop punk. Particularly evident of this women before men stage is “Guys My Age”, an anthem telling us all that nothing changes, dudes will always be complete oblivious jerks not worth your time. Here’s hoping they find a place to celebrate their riot grrrl status, like on a soundtrack similar to the one from 10 Things I Hate About You.

Key Tracks: Fuqboi / Guys My Age / Break My Heart / Unholy

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

Two weeks ago I mentioned how much Dan Auerbach was channeling Van Morrison in his newest album. There’s a bigger contender for that sound later in June, in singer Jason Isbell. Heck, in the song “Molotov” Isbell even remarks that he ‘broke a promise to myself / Made a couple to a brown-eyed girl’ There’s also a bit of Ryan Adams’ voice in Isbell, the one-time singer as part of folk group Drive-By Truckers. In his fifth album with band “and the 400 Unit”, Isbell crafts new heart-fueled folk, a working-man’s thought-provoking ballad album. With songs like “Something to Love” and “Tupelo” Isbell is trying to overshadow his southern roots by evoking all his heroes, branching out across America. Truth is, you’re going to want that chicken-fried down home feeling by the end. He’s just welcoming you home to the Nashville sound.

Key Tracks: Cumberland Gap / Anxiety / Chaos and Clothes / Cumberland Gap

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

If you thought we were done with the Scissor Sisters style sound after the single by Queens of the Stone Age, then you were mistaken. Royal Blood is back, and thicker than ever. If you came to Music for Your Ears today hoping to get some dense rock, some pure drum and bass fuzz, then you came to the right place. What I’ve lamented has been missing from the rock scene is some British sensibility, and here, in lieu of a new Arctic Monkeys album, comes a pair of Brighton boys doing their damnedest to rock our socks off with beats like “Hole in Your Heart” and “She’s Creeping”. They’re at their best when they’re allowing their instruments to take over, but Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher can hold their own with the best of them, spouting lyrics like “Then she drags me by one finger / To her lips / Hook, line & sinker / Honey I’m a sucker when you linger” – oozing danger at every dropped chord. Take a listen, it won’t hurt.

Key Tracks: I Only Lie When I Love You / Hook, Line and Sinker / Don’t Tell

Alright. That enough for you? If you’re not exhausted from reading all of this and raring up to listen to it all yourself, then prepare for next week’s entries – good stuff from Cheap Trick, Portugal. the Man, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, Beach House and more. We’ll also take amoment and reflect on the waning spring, warming up to summer by picking the best of the season – adding our choices to the end of the year battle.

Music to Your Ears – Bleachers, Halsey and Foo Fighters

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:

Music to Your Ears – Land of Talk, Muse, Selena Gomez

Another week, another One Direction solo artist attempts to cash in on his own singularity. Unfortunately for Liam Payne, he’s no Harry Styles, so we’ll just skip over him to the good stuff.
Muse – Dig Down

After 2015’s Drones, and finally being able to see Muse live, I was convinced of the fact that Muse would never be the same band they once were, grinding away at subdued space rock in stuff like “” and “”. Sure, with the grandiose production of NAME and NAME, Muse transcended the satellites they once gazed upon from down on Earth and vaulted themselves into the arenas they so richly deserved to play. Unfortunately for some original fans of their work, it lent a certain air of disconnection. The production was too overdone in some tracks, and while the lyrics were always snappy, it wasn’t until Drones that they reminded me once again of what great music they could create. It looked like they were beginning to return to that subdued sound. Here, though, they seem to be taking a step in the opposite direction. It’s not horrible, but what do they expect when they allow the chorus to merely be a repetitive yelp bellowing from Matt Bellamy’s throat? The guitar does them no service either, whining and grinding distortion mechanically, like a spaceship working its way through the sky. The overproduction returns, and don’t even get me started on the strangely suggestive title. Strange all around, I have to hope they’ll improve on their next single, and this will merely be a blip on a well done album.
Land of Talk – Life After Youth

What an unexpected surprise it was to find out that Land of Talk, a band I enjoyed in college, was returning with a new album. Back in 2002, their debut album Some Are Lakes set me on a path towards shoegazing pop that found me falling in love with other similar bands like Silversun Pickups, The Head and the Heart, Matt and Kim, Sleigh Bells and Chvrches. To say this is the godfather of them all is understated, at least for my musical journey. Well, with Life After Youth, they’ve returned to form. Singer Elizabeth Powell’s ambient vocals power the fuzz and guides down a river of noise-pop dreams. Much like Grandaddy’s recent return, Land of Talk feels like an old friend that came back for a visit and it feels like no time has passed at all.

Key Tracks: Spiritual Intimidation / This Time / Heartcore

Selena Gomez – Bad Liar

I was ready to dive into what apparently is a frontrunner for ‘song of the summer,’ Crying in the Club by Camila Cabello. Before that, I started with another new single by Selena Gomez, Bad Liar. Now, I had long dismissed Gomez as another manufactured Disney darling, a money machine for the Mouse that would eventually fade away, leaving us with distant memories only of her fling with Justin Bieber. Luckily, that’s not the case, and I’ve been proven very wrong. Bad Liar should have been the hit crowned a full month before summer even starts, as Gomez’s staccato chorus pumps you up and lets you down roughly when you realize the shade dwelling beneath the words. Gomez hasn’t stopped pulling the punches since her equally decadent hit Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself from two years ago. I have to say, Selena may be the real deal, and even though I must be jumping on the train long after it left the station, this may continue her run of star charting singles.

Come back next week for the newest from Shakira, Bleachers and Halsey!

Music to Your Ears – Michelle Branch, Cold War Kids and The New Pornographers

Michelle Branch – Hopeless Romantic

I’ve been waiting fourteen years to hear a new Michelle Branch song. After many struggles being entrapped by her record label, Branch was able to break away and with the help of new boyfriend Patrick Carney was able to fund her return to the limelight. She was sorely missed by her many fans as was proven at her secret show and release show in New York over the past month or so. The wait was absolutely worth it, as this is the best Branch has ever sounded. At first, I was worried it would be more of the same, and her last release, Hotel Paper, was a tad dull in its slower moments. Luckily, the slower moments here are punctuated with a better sensibility for tender instrumentals, and the early-2000s sound that made those songs dull has vacated her production. If anything, Carney infused his sound behind hers without taking it over. He’s let her breathe, do what she does best – warble about lost love and new hope and the pain and thrill in between. Listening to this, I realized that I’d filled the void for myself by latching on to one of my favorite singers, Rachael Yamagata, and the two share themes and sounds and almost a matching journey, save that all of Yamagata’s four albums came between Branch’s second and third. It’s fascinating to me that Michelle Branch could pull it off after all this time, but take a listen to the below key tracks for proof. It’s a very welcome return indeed.

Key Tracks: Not a Love Song, Living a Lie, Fault Line

The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions

I really don’t know how I didn’t fall in love with The New Pornographers before 2017. They’re an obvious ‘Tristan’ band, and they sound like several other bands I’ve loved over the past fifteen years or so – Franz Ferdinand, Chvrches, Motion City Soundtrack – maybe not exactly, but within that same range. You may have noticed I included their title song in my best of the winter 2017 tracks, and for good reason – it’s rapidly becoming my favorite song of the year, even moreso than Lorde’s “Green Light” or anything from Spoon. Speaking of that band, this one reminds me even more than those other examples, and I think they may challenge each other for best album of the year. The beat is immediately infectious, the lyrics philosophically ironic – just listen to singer Carl Newman wail that he’s “a second-rate Socrates” when talking about insomnia in ‘Second Sleep’. We all think we’re brilliant in the middle of the night, but they take it to another level here. Another facet of this band is that I didn’t realize is that Neko Case is part of this band, as is Dan Bejar (of Destroyer and Swan Lake). Newman himself has gone by AC Newman for several successful solo albums. The best part of this album is that it’s opened up a whole new catalog to dive into. Of course, this may be the top of their list.

Key Tracks: High Ticket Attractions, Whiteout Conditions, Second Sleep

Cold War Kids – LA Divine

Much like The New Pornographers, my love for Cold War Kids was a recent endeavor. I “discovered” them late, only about two years ago, when their hit single “First” was blasting over airwaves. I mostly love their main singles, though a short five song EP cleverly titled “Five Songs” hit the spot for me concerning the band. Even better is that the group keeps getting better with each subsequent release. Perhaps like the New Pornographers, Cold War Kids may have outdone themselves here. Like a shot of the gate, the band takes on the magic of falling in love, then proceeds to stretch our mood to the breaking point by elucidating on the vapid wasteland that is Los Angeles. How can we get lost in an oasis of our own creation? They love it there, but acknowledge that we can all make it beyond our own foibles as long as we do it together. Nathan Willett’s vocals will earworm their way into your heart by the end of the week.

Key Tracks: Love Is Mystical, No Reason to Run, Invincible

Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Reading about Josh Tillman’s personality, he sounds a bit like a musical JD Salinger – part recluse, part genius who loves to speak his mind, but keeps his thoughts close to the vest as much as possible. Either way, his music is melodically introspective, whilst also being as fun as folksy as you’d want from the millenial version of Van Morrison. 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear felt fairly mainstream from a person I’d previously known as the drummer of Fleet Foxes. I didn’t realize the guy would get so political, but it’s not terribly surprising given the state of affairs in our country these days. On that note, some of the highlights of the soft-spoken art piece are his meditations on the effect music can have on curing our emotions over fear for our own environment, like in “Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution” or his soulful retrospect on contentment late in life with “So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain”. The best spot on the album, though? His nearly fifteen minute biographic ballad. It’s at once a gorgeous history of a man torn between two worlds, one of nostalgic love for his parents, and one for a more progressive world outside of his family’s cloistered views. It’s clear this album is for those progressives, but it’s still a beautiful way to express oneself.

Key Tracks: Leaving LA, Pure Comedy, Ballad of the Dying Man

Come back over next week to find us discussing new releases from Joey Badass, Kendrick Lamar and newcomer Alexandra Savoir!

Music to Your Ears – Mastodon, Nelly Furtado and Bob Dylan

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

It might be strange to find that I’m a fan of this band, given my indie proclivities – but it’s only a matter of time before you find your range can reach out to metal bands. You get from Franz Ferdinand to Muse to Queens of the Stone Age to Mastodon. The branch isn’t that ridiculous to be out on, and it’s great when you get a solid album from a band you respect. Mastodon had their best output with 2009’s Crack the Skye, a melodic rush of guitar solos and boisterous drums, touching on everything from astral planing to Rasputin. They followed that up with The Hunter, an homage to guitarist Brent Hinds’ brother Brad, who died in 2010 of a heart attack while out hunting. After a disappointingly slow run for two albums, they’ve returned with some of the most effervescent instrumentals I’ve heard in a while. Take “Show Yourself”, whose introspective look is premeditated on the age-old theme of being true to oneself. The album unfolds generally hopeful, but there’s always that undercurrent of unsettled debts – the urging for something yet to be earned. Here I think Mastodon proves they’ve earned plenty already and love looking back on all they’ve accomplished.

Key Tracks: Show Yourself, Clandestiny, Word to the Wise

Nelly Furtado – The Ride

One week before Michelle Branch makes her much anticipated return to the limelight, another chanteuse that made her fame in the early 2000s came out with another album. Nelly Furtado first hit in big in 2000 with single “I’m Like a Bird” and “Turn Out the Light”, and she won a Grammy for the former. She managed to stay relevant through the next few years, with singles “Promiscuous” and “Maneater”. Lucky for us, she didn’t end up with the terrible producers that kept Branch out of the studio, and we had a handful of albums to enjoy from Furtado over the years. This release, while more demure than past efforts, is definitely worth it – and its maturity is only matched by Furtado’s ebullience, which belies her experience. The lyrics combine an impression of poppy indifference and sophisticated been-there done-that attitude. If you need a sample of what this involves, look no further than “Carnival Games” a rendezvous back to a simpler time that Furtado looks back on without bitterness, but with wistful reverence. Nelly has apparently called this her “hangover album” and it seems a perfect moniker, as it’s like the time you wake up the next morning and remember with horror or happiness the good times you manifested for yourself. Sometimes it can be a wild ride.

Key Tracks: Magic, Sticks and Stones, Live

Bob Dylan – Triplicate

Maybe Bob should stick to winning Nobel prizes. His original stuff always tends to be much better, and I’ve always been a fan of his actual poetic composing. Here, though, I knew he was going to attempt to cover some of his favorites from the past – like Hoagy Carmichael, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cy Coleman. It may seem strange, but Dylan obviously had inspirations before becoming the crown prince of MacDougal Street, where his scratchy drawl enchanted millions. Here’s the thing – those vocals were bolstered by some of the best lyrics of the second half of the 20th century. So as he ages, and that voice loses its charm, he may want to stick to what he did even better – write us some magic. Sure, there are moments of clarity, like the aforementioned Carmichael’s hit “Stardust” which is posted above. For the most part, though, Dylan will fade into the sunset as a marvelous performer (see his shows, they’re better live now than anything recorded) and more importantly, a genius lyricist.

The Kooks – “Be Who You Are”


Join us next week as we finally hear the hotly anticipated new release from Michelle Branch, as well as the latest from Cold War Kids, Father John Misty and The New Pornographers!

Music to Your Ears – Betty Who, Gorillaz and The Jesus and Mary Chain

At first as I noticed what was up for this week, I thought I was going to take a two week break – the list of new releases was quite scant. I’m not sure why, but nothing really caught my eye, but by mid-day Saturday I’d found three things that I could definitively expound upon:

Betty Who – The Valley

The titular song that starts this album is so dull that I was ready to dismiss this album and call it one of the most disappointing points of the year so far. Luckily, “Some Kinda Wonderful” lifts you out of the doldrums and by the time you get to the first single “Mama Say” you will realize that this Australian chanteuse’s sophomore effort is a sparkling delight baked inside pop confections so sweet you’ll know that she’s due for stardom. Like a Katy Perry-lite, you’ll find yourself swaying in your seat, hoping to head out on the dance floor as soon as hunaly possible. While it isn’t a perfect album – that first track, and some slower moments bring down the excitement – you’ll hopefully indulge in things like her collaboration with Warren G and of course, her megahit cover of Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever” – which closes the album.

Key Tracks: “Beautiful”, “Human Touch”, “Free to Fly”, “You Can Cry Tomorrow”


Gorillaz – “We Got the Power”

I begrudgingly accept that Gorillaz will never be the same. Much like the rollercoaster you can hear in Ben Gibbard’s voice and songwriting through his years as frontman of Death Cab for Cutie, outside events have affected mastermind Damon Albarn’s creative juices. In my opinion, renewed friendships aren’t always perfect. While it worked wonders for Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor for the sequel to Trainspotting, Albarn’s reunion with Jamie Hewlett is proving rather boring. I’m not sure if it’s just that there’s no verve behind the music, or that the collaborations are overshadowing what could have been something special, but I’m just rather annoyed at what they’ve put out so far. First, “Ascenion” appeared back in January and underwhelmed mightily. Now we have a power ballad that sounds like Noodle is attempting to branch out on her own as a hippie wishing free love upon her old bandmates. Here Savages singer Jehnny Beth and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher cameo, hoping to inject life into the lyrics that limp along over braindead instrumentals. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, as frequent podcast guest Jimmy thinks it’s some funky good stuff, but I have a high bar that Gorillaz has typically vaunted over effortlessly. I don’t want Albarn diminishing past art with mush like this.


The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy

I have a sort of a soft spot for The Jesus and Mary Chain as my college film featured one of their songs, “The Hardest Walk” over the end credits. So after believing Betty Who and Gorillaz had let me down, I turned to this Scottish alt-rock group hoping for some nice surprises. Turns out that was a great choice, as the smooth folk sounds were just what I needed for a calm and quiet Friday evening. If you’re looking for something chill, this is just what the doctor ordered, especially to start. Of course, knowing how the rest of the weekend had gone, it might come as no surprise that towards the back end things get repetitive – which is only a minor letdown. Luckily this will sooth your ears, to be paired with an oaken whiskey.

Key Tracks: “Song for a Secret”, “The Two of Us”, “All Things Pass”


I also decided to create a “Best of Winter” playlist for the first three months of 2017 – back in the summer last year I attempted a halfway mark article to designate the best tracks and albums so far, but it turned out to diminish my interest in a best of the year article towards the end of 2016. So I still have interest in that this year, I’m going to do a best of quarterly and hope that updating it periodically will only keep my interest (we also have to hope there are some quality options in October and November, as that sort of killed anything for last year’s second half). Anyway, here’s what I have on near constant repeat so far this year:



See you next week for that long-awaited Bob Dylan album and one more go around with my favorite metal band, Mastodon!

Music to Your Ears – Ed Sheeran, Lorde and Grandaddy

Surprise! Given that I had been on a roll last Thursday with the newest music from February, and the fact that I always want to make this a weekly endeavor, I decided to review the new music from the first releases in March:

Ed Sheeran – Division

I am not one known to dabble in the most popular of music, and I have to quantify this section with a warning: I didn’t really like this very much. That’s not to say you won’t, because it’s apparent that Sheeran has a heavy following the world around, as this past Sunday’s iHeartRadio awards proved. I didn’t even realize that “Shape of You” was Sheeran’s big new single. Goes to show you how on top of popular music I stay, but there it is. He’s obviously a great songwriter, and even if it’s pretty standard, a song like “Castle on the Hill” must have our attention paid. It’s lyrically sumptuous, like when John (Cougar) Mellencamp wove us a tale about that young couple growing up in the heartland. In Sheeran’s version, he’s returning home for a visit with his parents, reminiscing as he passes all his favorite youthful spots on the drive through backwoods country lanes. If nothing else, he’s crafted a beautiful piece or two. It’s a shame the whole album isn’t as solid.

Grandaddy – Last Place

In the time between now and their last album, 2006’s Just Like the Fambly Cat, entire genres were formed and crushed beneath their own weight. Frontman Jason Lytle released two solo albums, contributed to works by Band of Horses and M. Ward and played with bands like Great Northern and Modest Mouse. Certainly this is one of the most anticipated records of the year, as Grandaddy crumbled abruptly with no expectations for a reunion in sight. Fans of their lo-fi alt-country sound longed for more, and here it is! The welcomed return begins with a spiteful annoucement (“Way We Won’t”) that they don’t care what happened in between their time off, and to them, it’s like we’re old friends who feel as if we just spoke yesterday. To some of us, that’s the way we want it. From there, it only gets better. I’ll let you indulge in the much-needed Grandaddy revival.

Coldplay – Hypnotised

We’re never going to get the original Coldplay sound, and that’s okay. It’s been about a decade since the boys from London even reminded us of their debut EP The Blue Room. It’s unfortunate for fans of that unique Radiohead-esque flavor, but they were always on a streamline towards U2. As Cory and Ican attest, their stage show is one of the most grandiose productions, and their songs must play to that arena tone. Apparently after A Head Full of Dreams finished, the group felt there were some tracks strong enough to place on an EP of their own, Kaleidoscope, including this new single. Strangely enough, this was better than any song on the actual album – it’s demure like a B-side from Viva La Vida, with a timbre out of Chris Martin we haven’t heard since X&Y. My point isn’t that the band should sound like they once did, however, and it’s clear that while their best stuff is behind them, there’s still a chance for magic. “Hypnotised” is their best song in years, and it owes a lot to their entire history.

Lorde – Green Light

In the years between Lorde’s breakout hit album Pure Heroine, Lorde has stayed out of the limelight as much as possible. Several similar artists attempted to catapult off of her fame, albeit in that way many artists evolve around the same time – most notably Grimes. While many of them – Charli XCX, Sia, Kimbra – have still found the time to produce great music, many in the industry were hungry for the 2014 Best Song Grammy winner’s follow-up. At first, “Green Light” sounds like she’s merely continuing where she left off, but by the time she sings “I hear brand new sounds in my mind”, the background piano lets us know that she’s attempting something original, a trampoline launch off of her rocketing debut.


We’ll see if this maintains it’s weekly premise, but I see a ton of material on the horizon. If nothing else, hopefully Lorde can tide you over!