Category Archives: Singles

Music to Your Ears – Best of 2018: Final Four and Best Albums

Merry Christmas all! Sounds like you’re in need of a last-minute gift? Well, why not have the final four songs in our Bracket Challenge? Check those out below, and even further down you’ll find 6-10 of my favorite albums of the year:

Our first challenge has the two flip sides of a coin: soft-spoken or fast-paced.

One of the biggest phenomenons of the year up against a minor hit from a British band:

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

10) The Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl, Dave Matthews Band – Come Tomorrow and Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending

In a bit of a bind and a rush, I couldn’t help myself. All three bands are some of my favorites, and all three put out comeback collections that put them back on my radar once again. Franz Ferdinand was due, at this point, to have something worthwhile, and they even did it without longtime guitarist Nick McCarthy. The danciness of Tonight is there, but there’s something more fluid and heartfelt to this piece. The Decemberists had been experimenting with long-form story albums, concept pieces if you will, for their last few albums, and here they stride back towards basics with a group of songs that hearken back to their eclectic early days and one-off weirdness. Dave Matthews and his band have put out what may be my favorite of their albums, with several supple songs that crescendo with emotion. All in all, this trio were also highly underrated, so they have the underdog quality going for them as well.

What I Said Then: (3/22) It’s good to hear a familiar voice…I’d be glad to get back on this roller coaster again and again… (6/21) Truly I became immediately enraptured with this latest work …Never doubt the fun this band has, even if it’s a language all their own….(2/15) I’ve been waiting years for Franz Ferdinand to return to form….A mixture of that early sound with the delicate crash from Right Thoughts makes for at least a happy reformation.

9) Ruen Brothers – All My Shades of Blue

All year I’m looking for new acts that resonate in a way that I can’t get them out of my head. Henry and Rupert Stansall (their band title is an amalgam of their given names) have voices that remind me of one of my favorite bands, Murder By Death, with a baritone that occasionally escapes into a borderline falsetto when hyped up by a rousing chorus. The title song is their best feature, hearkening back to a time when drive-ins and bandstands were in fashion. To see them in person must be a trip back in time as well, with their aesthetic appropriately designed to replicate the period. It’s surprising then, to find that the brothers are from Scunthorpe, England. Fans of bands like the Rolling Stones and the Everly Brothers, you can imagine where the sound derived. Strumming a solemn guitar and slipping in a harmonica, the brothers harmonize as they wander down memory lane with a collection of love songs that could easily have been plucked from oblivion by Dick Clark. This was a nostalglic rendezvous that hopefully results in a minor revolution.

What I Said Then (6/9): There’s been a void of classic rock (inspired) bands slipping back into the mainstream….I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these songs end up in an AMC or FX show at some point….I really immediately connected with their stylings.

8) Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears

It’s remarkable that two young friends from England managed to put out one of the most exciting dream pop albums of the year. I took a chance on them, given the name, and it paid off for in spades. Each song builds on the next, and it’s easy to get lost in the symphony they’ve crafted. I’m looking forward to what they’ll do next, but for now we can revel in their moodpiece. Drugs aren’t even necessary to enhance the quality, this is a fine album to blast in the background while you work. It’ll push you to move faster. Vocalists Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth will have you enraptured before long.

What I Said Then (7/13): It’s not quite fuzz pop, but the wall of sound they produce is reminiscent of Chvrches or Silversun Pickups, sans synths. There’s still a brilliant use of instrumentals here, and they mix in an entrancing way.

7) Beach House – 7

I’ve said this before, but there are some bands you’re told you should love right off the bat and it just doesn’t connect. This was my experience with Beach House for the past decade, but something finally clicked this summer. All the dream and fuzz pop I’ve wanted from them at last emerged in an 11-song escapade that soothes any mid-summer anxiety. Cascading down your frontal lobe, singer Victoria Legrand’s melodic caterwauling reaching epic proportions here, and after all this time she sounds more confident than ever. Maybe it was the right timing, maybe it was the right lyrics, maybe it was a combination of everything, but this would be what I’d want to have been introduced to me all those years ago as a gateway to this genre. It’s the finest example around this year.

What I Said Then (5/16): hopefully long time fans will be enamored with the ethereal nature of the whole….Definite must grab for all fans of dream pop, it’s the dreamiest pop of the year.

6) The Wombats – Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life

Another band I had trouble getting into, The Wombats had that hit “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” and then vanished for some time. I’m happy to say that this album had several tracks that were considerably high on possible entries for the bracket – and as you can see, one even made it all the way to the final four so far. Something clicked here as well, with every song having a bit of a different touch to it. You can dance to most, you can rock out as you drive. It’s pretty much the best example of this band as well, with it also showcasing the direction rock has been going. Far more nuanced than your Walk the Moon or Twenty-One Pilots, there’s a sensitivity to the instruments and a sinister irony to the lyrics. It’s almost as if this album were made for me, so let’s hope it’s not a fluke.

What I Said Then (2/15): Thick with relatable stories, rock-hard rhythms and some of the best song titles this year, I’m going to give this significant replay.

Honorable Mentions: Liza Anne – Fine But Dying; illuminati hotties – Kiss Yr Frenemies; Elle King – Shake the Spirit; Metric – Art of Doubt; Kate Nash – Yesterday Was Forever; St. Lucia – Hyperion; Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You For Today; The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships; Natalie Prass – The Future and the Past; Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

Next week we’ll tally the votes for the final match, plus showcase the top five albums of they year. This Thursday I’ll have the best in television for you!

Five of my all-time favorite bands (Franz Ferdinand, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Muse and Chvrches) released new albums this year. Did any of them make my top ten? The answer will surprise you, next:


Music to Your Ears – Best of 2018: Elite Eight and Honorable Mentions

I’m very happy how this has been turning out in the second year of the contest. While I love all sixteen songs equally, there were certainly match-ups I would hope come to fruition, as below. For the second year in a row, the 16 seed upended the top song of the year, so perhaps it’s a bit unlucky to call yourself my favorite. Sorry, Selena Gomez (2017) and The 1975 (2018). Take a look below and the elite eight songs and help us pick the final four!

Scroll below these faceoffs for an extra list of my honorable mentions, songs that couldn’t quite make the cut…

Our first showdown is between two of my favorite artists:

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Best of 2018: Elite Eight and Honorable Mentions

Music to Your Ears – Best of 2018: Songs Part Two

Now that you’ve seen half of my favorite songs of the year (don’t forget to vote on them too!), it’s time to reveal the rest, including my favorite – one that lasted a good duration, holding steady to the spot just in time for the full album release last week. Take a look below and vote for these other four face-offs:

First we have my favorite song of the year pitted against one of my new favorite singers:

1) Give Yourself a Try – The 1975

From the moment the whine of Adam Hann’s guitar shrieks through the darkness of the beginning of this song I was intrigued. Then they did something I’ll always love in songs: a brief absence of sound. It turns your head, makes you ask why they paused. It’s always intentional and almost always effectual. That’s just the beginning, though. When Matt Healy breaks in with some of the best poetry this year, his anguished plea for preservation becomes something of a tragic tale. He enlightens us to his insights on aging gracefully, shucking the mistakes of the past and accepting that pain might always linger. Lucky for us we grow out of our distorted phases, hopefully grasping the reality of maturity, being able to deal with the pain. We might struggle some more, but there’s always something to keep us going, if only we give it a try. The thrill doesn’t let up as Hann’s guitar blares like a klaxon underneath the chorus, fading only for Healy’s final plea to hit home. It’s subtle and garish all at once, just like Healy and company want to represent for the millennial experience.

16) Small Talks – Liza Anne

I don’t think I’ve ever related to a song’s lyrics more than this one. Who among us hasn’t been at a party and forced to deal with complete strangers discussing the most mundane of subjects? Liza Anne perfectly puts to song that feeling of ennui brought on by the banter no one wants to deal with. Not only is it a subjectively engaging piece, but her guitar skills almost match her rapid fire repartee. I’m a sucker for female vocalists, as you know, and sardonic wit is the fastest way to my heart. That double dose of power made Liza Anne my favorite new artist of the year.

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Best of 2018: Songs Part Two

Music to Your Ears – Best of 2018: Songs Part One

Crazy to think we were just doing this twelve short months ago, but 2018 truly flew by for a variety of reasons. In it, there was a ton of good music – one might say, one of the best years in recent memory. We’ll get to the incredibly tough decision of best albums in a few weeks, so for now we’ll showcase what I believe to be the best songs.

If you recall last year, we launched our first Music Bracket to decide the best of the best, and this year will continue the tradition. You know the drill – sixteen songs will duke it out for the top spot. Our first four matchups are below, so dig in for the beginning of the best of the year:

First up we have an early spring confessional paired alongside an earnest love proclamation:

2) Recovery – Kimbra

Our first song up and it’s not even a single! This deeper cut off of Kimbra’s early spring release Primal Heart hooked me immediately with its soulful background chanting and offbeat percussion leading our singer into the first verse. Along the way we learn that while she swears she meant to get over her ex, it’s proven much more difficult to release their memory. Instantly relatable and catchy as hell, it’s probably pretty obvious why I latched on to this ode to the level-headed. To last the whole year as my second favorite song is an impressive feat, but given that Kimbra had a head start at the end of last year with premiere single “Top of the World”. There are more experimental tracks  in the album, but this soulful self-discovery hits all the right buttons for me.

15) That Girl Is You – Dave Matthews Band

When attending my first Dave Matthews Band concert this past June, we walked in a smidge too late and weren’t in our seats by the time this song rolled around on the guitar. Given the acoustics of BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ, it became a beautiful spot to listen in – that is, we were virtually alone in the massive courtyard between the lawns and the concessions. Dave’s signature mutter-singing gave way to earnest unabashed high-pitched love as the song crescendos and eventually crashes into you. The epic build serves the song well, and makes for one of the most impactful singles the band has released in over a decade.

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Best of 2018: Songs Part One

Music to Your Ears – Summertime Sadness

With the miserable delay I’ve suffered with everything, something had to give. I’m just skipping late August and September in a way, and giving you a best of for the Summer, as I’d planned for last week. Some of the best stuff may end up in my end of the year articles, so keep an eye out for those. They will be on time.

In case you want a brief recap of what was good and bad:

Good: St. Lucia, Hyperion; Pale Waves, My Mind Makes Noises; Metric, Art of Doubt

Bad: Carrie Underwood, Cry Pretty; Good Charlotte, Generation Rx

Finally, here’s a Spotify hub for the sixteen best tracks I heard this summer. There was no clear-cut domination, all of these sort of rotated through my brain. Hope you enjoy!

Music to Your Ears: Eminem, Alkaline Trio and Paul McCartney

I somehow missed a week, Labor Day and the start of the NFL season threw me for a loop. Let’s take a glance at the latest two weeks, chock full of melodic, delightful oddities:

Eminem – Kamikaze

A surprise debut on the final Friday in August, this unsettlingly strange Labor Day rap album became more laborious as it went along. I used to think of Eminem as a malcontent intent on spreading venom that turned up as daisies at the end of the day. He always seemed to want to push the latest divisive sentiment, a shock jock stuck in a white rapper’s body. Coming out of Detroit, he always dreamt he was destined for something greater than his upbringing. Now that he’s achieved all that, even on the back of tracks that weren’t up to true rap standards, what can he lose? Kamikaze has been controversial for all the typical reasons, which makes it all the more boring when you realize the content isn’t even approachable to the outlier listener. In my hot take opinion, Eminem is long past his expiration date.

Key Tracks: Lucky You / Not Alike / Good Guy

Continue reading Music to Your Ears: Eminem, Alkaline Trio and Paul McCartney

Music to Your Ears – Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol and Santigold

You may have noticed a drop in articles for the Music to Your Ears column. There’s a typical lull at some point in the year, as either interest in content itself drops for this writer, or work ramps up outside the Interjections blog and podcast. It’s never truly intentional, but sometimes becomes borne of necessity. Alas, July was one of those lulls, and while there was some good stuff – mostly singles from upcoming albums, it wasn’t worth taking time out of our busy schedules to write up what you might need to know. Honestly, I’m sort of disappointed in the recent trend of releasing five singles before an album debuts – it’s practically half the album, so I’d rather listen to it all when the whole record drops. That’s the case with our first review today:

Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You For Today

For the group’s ninth album, it’s all about retrospection. Frontman Ben Gibbard has gone on record as saying that he believes this is the perfect album for mid-life: he’s at the point at which he’s looking backwards as much as he’s looking toward his future, and that spills out through his music here. If you know anything about the guy, and he’s certainly the most integral part of the band, his love life has been first and foremost at the forefront of his art. His side projects and solo albums represent a side-ego, while his main through line has always been about attaining that which most of humanity strives for: happiness with a soul mate. For him to have gone through that and come back again alongside the literal manic pixie dream girl that starred in 500 Days of Summer, it’s a bit tough to separate his real-life experiences and the music he’s created. Certainly, it’s not like he’s attempting to hide that fact. When they were blissfully married, we had the sunniest output this one-time “emo” band produced: Codes and Keys. Once they’d divorced, fairly soon after the release of that album, we had the most dour sound: Kintsugi. Now that the dust has settled for several years, we have the phoenix that has risen since. It’s a thoughtful yet pained address to that hopeful child Gibbard once was: “It won’t end up like you predicted, but it certainly will have been worth it. Don’t regret it, you’ll love again.” He even manages to produce a meditative reflection on 2003’s track “Passenger Seat” in the sequel stunner “When We Drive”.

Chris Walla, longtime guitarist for DCFC, is gone for the first time since the group’s first album You Can Play These Songs with Chords. While his personal contribution may be sorely missing, it’s filled ably by Dave Depper and Zac Rae, who throw in their own style on first single “Gold Rush” and closer “60 & Punk”. The most poignant part of the album fills the middle of the album, where Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry pops up for backing vocals on “Northern Lights”. It’s still a little obvious that Gibbard misses his ex-wife, as he’s placed blantant references to her 2009 film by naming tracks “Summer Years” and “Autumn Love” It’s okay to have some subtlety, but it never really was Gibbard’s forte. Longtime fans will be thrilled to be lovelorn alongside Death Cab once again.

Key Tracks: When We Drive / Northern Lights / Your Hurricane

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol and Santigold