Category Archives: New Music

Music to Your Ears: Pink, St. Vincent, Robert Plant, and Stars

It’s been a strange week as it’s cooled down – baseball is winding down, hockey is warming up. I didn’t really feel like writing anything about basketball because, frankly, I’m no expert in the sport. I can’t definitively discuss what it takes to make it in the NBA. It also doesn’t really interest me, especially when you have super-teams forming left and right, forcing parity out of the window. What I do love to discuss is music, so I’m sticking to that:

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

Annie Clark has slowly metamorphized into one of the most artistically dynamic artists in pop music working today. Similarly to her contemporary – the enigmatic Sia Furler – the sound of St. Vincent has evolved from bare-bones romanticism to full-fledged grandiose. Discordant trumpets and embellished synths are her instrumental calling card, and in her previous two albums, 2011’s Strange Mercy and 2014’s self-titled effort, she used them to great success. Here she expands on that cacophony of sound, a synthetic symphony that doesn’t let up until the last drop beat. The most interesting thing here is how diabolically sinister the whole album feels. I talked a few weeks ago about The Mynabirds album Be Here Now, and how singer Laura Burhenn wrote it with the fresh American election hanging heavily on her mind. It’s certain St. Vincent has followed suit in that regard, among other intensely personal experiences that have influenced the stories within Masseduction. She’s turned out what could potentially be her greatest album, but I may need a few more listens before I decide – yet that’s obviously worth it.

Key Tracks: Young Lover / Happy Birthday, Johnny / Los Ageless

Continue reading Music to Your Ears: Pink, St. Vincent, Robert Plant, and Stars

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Music to Your Ears – Wolf Parade, Cults and Marilyn Manson

Now that we’re heading into fall, hoping the unseasonable warmth evicts itself from our lives, let’s dive into what the music world has for us:

Cults – Offering

Cults literally saved my life in 2011. No, I didn’t fall in with the wrong crowd and discover how to be true to myself or any of that bullshit. The synthpop duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion formed earlier the year before in New York City subsequently dropped a bomb on my heart, in the form of their self-titled debut. Songs like “Go Outside,” “Oh My God” and especially “You Know What I Mean” broke me down and formed the person I would soon become, self-loathing and bittersweet rolled into a ball of complicated neuroses and overfeeling idosyncracies. Anyway, enough about me – the band helped me through a lot of personal distress and move on from it, empowered. So my hopes were real high on their second album, Static, which debuted in 2013. Obviously I would be a little let down after the first album had rapidly become one of my favorite all-time records, but Static was still more from the same band I’d fallen in love with, albeit a bit dull. The whole thing felt a bit rushed, and only one or two tracks still find themselves in my rotation. Now that some time has passed, the group is back with their latest, Offering. While it is again more of the same sound, the work is a linear piece, like one long song. Some may find that detrimental, and I expect to mostly want to listen to this in one sitting rather than include songs in playlists, I think it works well (and better than Static). Follin warbles further feelings such as “Drifting through the silence/ Searching for guarantees” and continues the hopeful nature of the previous two albums by claiming we all have the answers within us. For me, it’s a welcome relief to know they’ve continued to manage such affectations and maybe more fans will turn up to discover the fuzz-pop wonder within this cult of sound.

Key Tracks: Recovery / Natural State / Clear From Far Away

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Wolf Parade, Cults and Marilyn Manson

Music to Your Ears – Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Shania Twain and Wolf Alice

Yeah, yeah I know, another day, another week of falling behind. Life comes at you fast, you gotta know when not to mind that last week’s music is now this week’s music. Here’s some reviews, enjoy:

Miley Cyrus – Younger Now

I have been lauding the genius of songs “Malibu” and “Younger Now”, the title track off of Miley Cyrus’ newest edition. What I wasn’t ready for was that these would be the only two great tracks. Don’t get me wrong, Miley is making some good stuff, but it all sort of blends together. After you get past those two singles, a strangely indigestible duet with Dolly Parton pops up, “Rainbowland”. It stops the album flat and you’re not quite sure if you care to continue. The effervescence of the first two songs never truly returns, as songs like “I Would Die for You” and “Bad Mood” re-hash many of the same notions and never really attempt anything exciting instrumentally. Eventually the whole thing fades into the background and you may find yourself wishing for the younger Miley, one that was more fun and entertaining.

Key Tracks: Malibu / Younger Now / Inspired

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Shania Twain and Wolf Alice

Music to Your Ears – The Killers, Fergie and Sleeping with Sirens

This is a big week for us here, as we welcome the onset of autumn. The Killers have released their first album in five years, while Fergie has her first in eleven. We have another album from Canadian songstress Lights, and two post-hardcore bands with new music: Circa Survive and Sleeping with Sirens. Check it all out below, starting with the return of everyone’s favorite Springsteen impersonator:

The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful

This has been a long time coming – the culmination of a long career for Brandon Flowers and company that has produced a total of five albums as well as a rarities record, which by now is much adored by their fans and critics alike. Flowers came into his own on his second solo record, 2015’s The Desired Effect. Before this, especially indicative on the previous solo work, 2010’s Flamingo, he was considered jokingly too much of a Springsteen knockoff. Since then, luckily, Flowers found the right amount to represent his hero, and utliized his own talents to formulate a beautiful collection of albums, each better than the last – starting with the last Killers album, Battle Born. The sound the band has cultivated over the last fifteen years is a blue-collar one, by way of Vegas. The glitz of the strip poured itself all over the first album, and by the time it was clear that Flowers’ fandom of Bruce would color everything after, it was Sam’s Town. Perhaps letting loose his intentions too early, it was only a matter of time before they got it right. Wonderful Wonderful takes off like a shot with a rocket of a song in the titular track, followed quickly by the first single “The Man” which I reviewed favorably enough earlier this year. The Killers certainly aren’t stuck in a “Rut” like the next song suggests, as it continues to climb favorably towards the peak song, “Run for Cover”. Unfortunately, despite the perfection of that Thunder Road sound Flowers has always desired, it stumbles towards the end, with a strange namedrop or two and a bit too much of sentimentality and nostalgia. Then again, wasn’t that what most critics complained about with Bruce?

Key Tracks: Run For Cover / Tyson vs. Douglas / Rut / Out of My Mind

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – The Killers, Fergie and Sleeping with Sirens

Music to Your Ears – Foo Fighters, Rostam and The Lone Bellow

Wasn’t sure if I’d pick this up this week, but beyond the new Foo Fighters album, I didn’t expect anything new. I was able to scrape together a few new albums and a single, though. Take a look:

Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson

Woof. I was deeply enamored with Ariel Pink’s 2010 album Before Today, which featured the fantastic track “Round and Round”. He followed that up with a stellar album Mature Themes, in which the great song Kinski Assassin kicked off the action. Unfortunately for us, this newest album is dead on arrival. Screeching out of the gates, “Time to Meet Your God” is a grating request to turn down your speakers. “Feels Like Heaven” attempts to remedy the misfire by toning down the instrumentals, but the singer-songwriter doesn’t seem to care if this fades from memory before we even finish. The prevailing mood settles somewhere between ethereal and downright dull, but there’s at least one bright spot in all of this: “Bubblegum Dreams”. My ears perked up as it started, as it was more traditional Ariel. Perhaps that was the point, to try to branch out, but I think he just reached out in the wrong direction.

Key Tracks: Bubblegum Dreams

Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold

I’ve talked at length at the dearth of good rock music prevailing in radio these days. I was thinking today, however, that it’s just that pure rock has escaped to the fringes – the indie, the clubs, the nostalgic cover bands. There’s nothing wrong with it, there’s nothing wrong with the change – as we evolve to a new form of rock, people that are thirty and older will have to discover something new to enjoy or grasp on to the last straws of rock, like two weeks ago when Queens of the Stone Age released a great new album, Villains, or now – a fantastic new album from classic nineties and aughts band Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl has been a mainstay on the scene for over three decades now, and it’s great to hear him admitting that sensitivity can funnel its way into his songwriting, like in my favorite track from the album, “Happily Ever After (Zero Hour)”. About two-thirds of the way through Concrete and Gold it feels like Grohl and the rest of the group just want us to relax, not worry about the end of the world, but take in their version of “It was all well worth it, I have no regrets”. Never fear though, true believers, there’s plenty of loud music to be had here: the one-two punch of first single “Run” and intimate rager “Make It Right” allow us back into the fray of Grohl’s world. After, second single “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” reminds us that latter-day Foo Fighters is anthemic but still full of pulp. The rest of the 11-song album is much of the same, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to the collection.

Key Tracks: Make It Right / Happily Ever After (Zero Hour) / Sunday Rain

Rostam – Half-Light

I have to preface this by saying that I’m very happy Rostam Batmanglij has still found a way to get his voice out there, it’s definitely one of my favorites – and one half of the reason why I loved his old band Vampire Weekend in the first place. My fear, however, is that much like another favorite band – Panic at the Disco – he was the weakest link. Time will tell of course, like it has with Brendon Urie and his extensive discography, but my guess is that I will still love Ezra Koenig’s version of the group, and at least admire what Rostam does from here on out. It may be that the group’s fracture comes not like the one that did in the pop group Fun. but rather more that Rostam branches out all the time much like Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla eventually did a few years ago. As this record goes, it’s a fine solo debut, with much of the music intimately familiar with his previous work. As I listened through, I could call out which tracks sounded like old Vampire Weekend ones. That isn’t entirely a bad thing: “Wood” has an Indian instrumental base that immediately reminds of “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)” – a track from Vampire Weekend’s titular 2008 effort. “Bike Dream” is a dizzying revelation that has to be a play on massive hit “Diane Young”. “Never Going to Catch Me” has all the flair of “Everlasting Arms” sans the heart. All in all, it’s a fine thing that Rostam has done, and I hope he bucks the trend, ultimately working well alongside his reformed former band.

Key Tracks: Bike Dream / Don’t Let It Get to You / I Will See You Again / Gwan

The Lone Bellow – Walk Into a Storm

Speaking of the evolution of rock, a recent theme in popular music is the folk-rock movement. I hesitate to call it a bad thing, as many do – they cite weaker efforts from The Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men or Mumford and Sons. As I’ve been a long time fan of The Decemberists, I can see why this trend has picked up during the last decade. There was a need for more relatable tunes, and given the penchant for top-40 to feel edgy and alternative by picking up unknown bands, they latched onto the pseudo-country sound of these bands and ran with it. I don’t mind at all, as much of the music is full of emotions I want to hear about in music. The Lone Bellow, in particular, have a good grasp on what makes for a good album – as their newest starts out with a road-trip worthy song “Deeper in the Water” we ride along with them on a journey towards satisfaction. While the rest of the album doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of elation, I can imagine this being on Zach Braff’s short list for a new film, or playing in the back end of my next cross-country excursion. If nothing else, take a listen to “Come Break My Heart Again” an ode to those lovelorn lovers stuck in purgatory after a breakup.

Key Tracks: Deeper In The Water / Walk Into a Storm / Come Break My Heart Again


Next week is a big one – The Killers, Fergie, Chelsea Wolfe, Camila Cabello and Fergie! We’re going to do our best to get the facts to you as soon as they’re available!

Until next time…

Music to Your Ears – LCD Soundsystem, The Mynabirds and Tori Amos

With all the noise about the NFL season starting and the fall television preview, I had to push back this past week’s latest in music. That’s fine, though, as there’s plenty to catch up on this week as well! Let’s dive in:

LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

James Murphy, like all good auteurs, went through a period of time where he claimed he was retiring. Just like Steven Soderbergh, Michael Jordan and Cher before him, Murphy couldn’t resist the pull of creating new music. Lucky for us, he’s come back to us with one of the slickest productions he’s crafted to date. Amidst homages to David Bowie (“Black Screen”) there are some of the most unnerving electronica tracks that Murphy has ever presented to us. An album that begs to be run to, or driven to, or danced to, it’s the album we all needed to close out the summer.

Key Tracks: Other Voices / tonite / How Do You Sleep?

The Mynabirds – Be Here Now

After The Mynabirds had one of my favorite albums of 2015, I expected the follow-up would be a bit of a decline. Surprise! The newest from singer-songwriter Laura Berhernn is a complete delight, albeit a bit political. Written in the aftermath of this past November’s presidential election, Berhenn wrote up a flurry as she participated in the Women’s March and lived in the shadow of the negativity as she lives in Washington D.C. In particular, the first single “Golden Age” directly calls out the current “president” – namedropping the inhumane Muslim Ban, saying she “could punch a Nazi in the face”. It gets pretty blatant her stance on things when she claims “we got some real villains to stop / before they kill us all”. Even though my favorite album of theirs will likely remain 2015’s Lovers Know, I’m ecstatic that she could come up with another album so beautiful yet also artistically integral to boot.

Key Tracks: Golden Age / Wild Hearts / Shouting at the Dark

Taylor Swift – “…Ready for It?”

After all the hot takes have fallen by the wayside, you can dive into the second straight single from the queen of controversy, the one whose own poptimism has been overshadowed by all the criticism thrown at her over the past decade, as well as even better musicians being perfectly genuine. Given her new narrative, this is a much more palatable song, something like darker version of last album’s “Wildest Dreams”. Lyrics such as “But if he’s a ghost, then I can be a phantom” imply that there’s at least some effort behind her bitterness, even if that’s been done in enough songs that we don’t necessarily need it again here. Eh, take or leave her, I’m satisfied so far with what she’s given us. I’m ready for the album though.

Tori Amos – Native Invader

I don’t know how I’ve missed out on Tori all these years – but I’m glad I discovered this. The odd thing is that it excites me more to dive deep into past works than listen to this again. Just getting past the sluggish opening track is a chore, but there’s some gems to delight in, including the one we reviewed just two weeks ago, “Up the Creek”. Folk rythyms are the order of the day, and in “Cloud Riders” Amos talks of the thunder gods as she regales us with a tale of lost love on the edge of a cliff. Much of the album sounds intensely personal, and clearly that’s worked well for Amos here – which is why I can’t wait to go back and drink in all that’s she served us before.

Key Tracks: Cloud Riders / Wildwood / Up the Creek

The National – Sleep Well Beast

I was ready to think that The National had peaked a few years ago, back when “Bloodbuzz Ohio” revealed that their pastiche was really just a stuttered version of their hit single “Fake Empire”. However, much like some of the best bands, they’ve returned with a handful of tracks that highlight the best of those tracks – Matt Berninger’s low rumble of a roar, the equalizing bass of Aaron Dessner and the striking drum work of Bryan Devendorf – the best of which is right off the bat in “Day I Die”. Fans will be soothed by the sameness of some of the songs, but there is also an experimental branching out with much of the music here.

Key Tracks: Day I Die / The System Dreams in Total Darkness / I’ll Still Destroy You

U2 – “You’re the Best Thing About Me”

For the past fifteen years, U2 has been synonymous with out-of-touch. Their duet with Green Day only fueled the latter band’s descent into oblivion with the younger crowd. Suffice it to say, it seemed like the group would never craft a song this good again. Instead, “You’re the Best Thing About Me” is a light-hearted throwback that I’m glad to say is the best song they’ve written since they figured out how to dismantle an atomic bomb. It’s nothing innovative, but the chorus will get to you, and certainly not overwhelm or underwhelm you like much of their last two albums did. The Edge is as sharp as ever with his guitar work, and Bono steps aside to let the rest of his bandmates shine. If the rest of their upcoming album works like this, perhaps a revival is in store.

Kelly Clarkson – “Love So Soft”

This earwormed into my head so quickly I didn’t even notice it came on directly after the U2 song. I went to play this only to notice it was the song I’d just listened to. I want to say that’s a bad thing, that I didn’t even register the song, but it’s perhaps perfect background music. It’s the right thing for Kelly Clarkson to re-emerge with, an understated ballad that you can drive along to, or have on at a party with a few close friends. Clarkson slowly grew on me over the years, but I hold her to one of the highest standards of musicians working these days, and I would have to say was one of the better singles of the past month (I’m looking at you Taylor).

 


 

Next week sees only one big new release – Foo Fighters’ Concrete and Gold. Beyond that there’ll be new stuff from The Killers, Fergie, Demi Lovato and much more. I’m sure there may be a handful of singles to peruse, but don’t be surprised if I slip forward with the Foo Fighters and wait until the last week in September to discuss more music, including perhaps my picks for the best of the summer!

Music to Your Ears – Kesha, The National, Cut Copy and Pink

Given that there was no podcast this past weekend due to the resonating effects of the Cars 3 debacle, I’ve thought long and hard about what’s to become of this if Cory never recovers from Pixar-related atrocities. Frequent guest James Milliron has suggested filling in for some time and discussing pop culture as a whole, and given the state of our country – something that’s been on our minds for a long time has been to discuss current events outside of entertainment. We do interject, after all, don’t we?

Let us know below if you think this might be a good way to go for the Interjections medium, as usual commenting responsibly. As for now, enjoy the latest edition of Music to Your Ears, which features the return of one of my favorite artists:

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Kesha, The National, Cut Copy and Pink