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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:

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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 – HAIM, Wolf Alice and Kesha

Here we are, to start off the summer, and what a way to start – a whole slew of female-led bands, or singers to serenade us into the dead heat of July. We’ve got the newest from HAIM, Broken Social Scene, and three new tracks – a surprise from Kesha, and the latest from Wolf Alice and Cults!

HAIM – Something to Tell You

Four years ago, HAIM blew us away with their sensitive yet confident romance, their whimsical ’80s inspired pop telling us exactly what to expect: earnest yet endearing earworms for the forseeable future. In their second full-length album, the trio of sisters (their last name is the namesake) showcases their range, bringing several catchy tunes. In “You Never Knew” it appears that they branch out in to Fleetwood Mac standards, forcing a bit of a folk sound. They lyrics are at once both simplistic and complex, offering a vocabulary that belies their repetetive choruses. The true standout here is, and always has been, the girls’ vocals – Danielle leads the ship, while Este and Alana blend together like a Greek chorus of encouragement. While Danielle addresses the audience directly, her sisters are there to offer support when we fall off course, like sirens that mean to save us all.

Key Tracks: Right Now / Ready for You / Want You Back

Wolf Alice – “Don’t Delete the Kisses”

In a sort of understated version of HAIM, this mumblecore girl power group burst onto the scene around the same time, albeit in England. Several of their singles gained popularity across the pond on national public radio, where I managed to get my first wind of them. Since then, I’ve been eagerly anticipating a follow-up, one that can vault the band into a higher stratosphere. With “Don’t Delete the Kisses”, Wolf Alice has produced one of their sharpest songs yet, with a chorus that stabs you in the back, and then continues slicing its way through your insides. Singer Ellie Rowsell’s voice breaks as she, whispering, laments “And then I remember and I’m shy / That gossip’s eye will look too soon / And then I’m trapped, overthinking”. If HAIM is the subtly cheery answer to power pop, then Wolf Alice is their Negaduck.
Kesha – “Praying”

The past decade or so has been harrowing for Kesha Sebert, much more than many of us will ever realize. For the most part, the cherry on the sundae of her ordeals has been that the judge hearing her contract case ignored the fact that she wanted out of the deal with RCA because her producer Dr. Luke had also continually raped her. Just the idea that a victim would love to not be forced back together with such a monster was too much for the judge to comprehend, and thus we were helpless to watch one of our favorite artists stuck in a nightmare situation. Well, turning lemons into gold, Kesha has returned with one of her best songs to date.

Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

Like a number of bands this year, it’s been a time of reunion. After seven years away from the Canadian pop world, the gang has returned to bestow upon us some more soothing protest pop. This time around, I think they’re the most fine-tuned I’ve heard an album. In the past, I feel some of their work was a tad disjointed, and I often found myself cherry picking different songs and placing them in various playlists, rather than listen the whole way here. Instead, after a majestic sunrise of an opening song in “Sol Luna”, the production in Hug of Thunder continues throughout, starting with with of the peppiest songs I’ve heard from Kevin Drew before, “Halfway Home”. There are certainly downtime songs, ones to chill out too, but there is an undercurrent of rage beneath the smooth tidings. Whether there’s something affecting them from south of the border or whether it’s just that age-old aging problem, this is definitively the most mature album from BSS, which is the most surprising thing of all after this much time.

Key Tracks: Stay Happy / Protest Song / Halfway Home

Cults“Offering”

One of my favorite bands of the past decade, I spent the latter part of 2011 heavily enamored with several tracks from Cults’ debut album, including “Go Outside”, “You Know What I Mean” and “Never Heal Myself”. Two years later, the duo debuted Static, which by any means would not be a sophomore slump (though critically it appeared so, and even by my high standards, it was not oft repeated). That underrated album deserves another listen, of course, and especially now that the band is preparing to send us another Offering. The title track is the first to be heard, and while it bares several hallmarks of that latter album, it’s always a good thing to see a band grow. “Offering” is fairly slow, but it illuminates singer Madeline Follin’s eerily soothing vocals. Rest assured, there will undoubtedly be more uptempo instrumentals to come, but I bet the pair just wanted to ease us back into their welcome arms.

 


Well, that’s all for now, folks. Looking ahead to next week, I may be taking another hiatus – as Cory and I will be traveling to the nordic wonderland that is Iceland. We’ll likely be at least slipping in a podcast this weekend before we go, but with only really one semi-interesting release this Friday (Coldplay’s Kaleidoscope EP) I plan on pushing Music to Your Ears back a week. That will find us with new releases from Lana Del Rey, Foster the People, and some likely surprises!

Music to Your Ears – Best of 2015

So you’ll notice that Music to Your Ears was on hiatus for the first week of 2015, and technically with this past Monday’s revelation that the great David Bowie had passed away, we didn’t really cover anything new. That’ll be remedied in next Monday’s edition, but for now, I have one last thing to say about 2015. With my year-end lists, I’m terribly succinct and the music one is definitely the one closest to my heart. I always want to be precise with my choices and reasoning for them, so it took me an extra week to get the Best of 2015 Music to Your Ears list out to you. Without further adieu, my top ten albums and songs of 2015:

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Best of 2015