1. “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry feat. Juicy J: I love Katy Perry. I think the girl can belt out a song while still showing an awe-inspiring sense of vulnerability. Ever since her marriage to Russell Brand ended, Perry has made countless contributions to what I consider “girl power anthems”. You know the ones, like “Wide Awake,” “Part of Me,” and now “Dark Horse”; these are the songs that touch upon inner strength and the ability to move forward after heartbreak or other similar life-altering experiences. What I appreciate most of “Dark Horse” is the no-nonsense way Perry speaks to potential suitors. Her message basically is: listen I’ll rock your world, be the most amazing thing in your life, but if you fuck me over, you’ll wish you were never alive. I am positive every girl has felt that at some point in their lives, and without a doubt, they have felt like screaming it out. Now they have a poetic and anthemic way of doing so, with a hip-hop bass line, to boot. Plug your iPod into the auxiliary cable, blast those speakers and amp up the bass, and enjoy! Favorite lyric: “Make me your Aphrodite, make me your one and only, but don’t make me your enemy.” (Don’t you just love that subtle warning mixed with wanting?)
2. “Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)” by Ages and Ages: Recently my boyfriend and I went to go see Lake Street Dive at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa (which, by the way, if you haven’t already, check Lake Street Dive out immediately!). These guys were the opening act and they blew me away with their diverse sound. As we were listening, Gabriel and I kept throwing out names of bands they reminded us of. We managed to come up with The Lumineers, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Of Monsters and Men, and Anathallo. Though I know when I listened to their album (purchased at the concert, but available on iTunes and Amazon) it reminded me of a rock-a-billy, punk-rock cohesion of sound that is lightly sprinkled with the campy quality of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and late 60s country swag with the likes of Johnny Cash and June Carter. With the vocals, heavy bass, steady guitar work and the variety of percussion and rhythm, it is not surprising they reminded us of various other bands. This particular track was the first Gabriel and I heard by them. After managing to score tickets to a sold out LSD show, we opted to take a peek at the opening group and found this oddly catchy and repetitive song. I was chopping vegetables to go in our dinner and he was doing the dishes when we pressed play we heard the following lyrics: “Do the right thing, do the right thing; do it all the time, do it all the time; make yourself right, nevermind them; don’t you know you’re not the only one suffering.” It repeats several times before it breaks into the first verse and just continues to build into a beautiful mushroom cloud of vocals, instrumentation, and oddly encouraging advice. These guys not only put on an amazing live show, but their album is fantastic, too.
3. “The Mother We Share” by CHVRCHES: As any good audiophile knows, the inspiration to check out a new band can come from anywhere: recommendations from family and friends, excerpts overheard from neighboring cubicles (or in my case, labs), when cruising Facebook and Twitter, or even things like Spotify, lastfm, Beats Radio, or any other XM radio. For months and months any time that I went on my lastfm account I would be greeted with recommendations based on my listening habits (recorded by lastfm), and CHVRCHES would always be listed. While in the midst of a new music funk, I decided to check out their albums on iTunes and on a whim downloaded The Bones of What You Believe (their 2013 release). I was immediately reminded of other favorites, like The xx, Crystal Castles, M83, and The Naked and Famous. Electro-pop fused with lilting vocals definitely inspires the image of laser light shows, smoky venues, and teenage emotions (which, not to offend anyone, are not any different from adult ones, just as a teenager you definitely feel more; everything is so immediate). An 80s new wave sound mixed with a sprinkling of futuristic synth pop, this song definitely eggs you on to dance, but à la the “gothic defeated heartbreak sway” (head down, bobbing methodically to the beat, while moving your feet a quarter of an inch left and then right, a single tear burgeoning at the corner of your eye waiting to spill down your cheek; it’s a dance I perfected in the early 2000s). Seriously, though, this group has an appeal, especially for anyone who appreciates a band that sounds like Crystal Castles and Robert Smith made a baby (which, incidentally, they do have a song together).
4. “Tightrope” by WALK THE MOON: This song is one of the oddest combinations of musical sub-genre mixing that upon first and second listens you may wonder at how you are dancing and air guitar-ing and head-banging simultaneously while smiling so big your cheeks hurt. You will also be visualizing yourself on stage in California, ocean waves rippling towards the beach. It’s like a confetti of musical notes exploding in different parts of your brain and the only possible reaction to it all is to stomp along with the drums, play the air-guitar to the insane rifts, sing to the simple lyrics, and occasionally hold your hand in the air, listening to the various genre puzzle pieces fall into place. Then do it all over again. Because, believe me, you will want this on repeat for a bit. The upbeat rhythm energizes and deletes any possible negativity. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go daydream about being on the beach, shredding the guitar…
5. “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons: I think my boyfriend Gabriel did an apt job at describing what Imagine Dragons does when he said “It’s like they mixed dubstep with rock n’ roll.” The percussion heavy and electronica laden sound is epic, to say the least. The vocals are anthemic and the lyrics are simple enough that you can tune in, turn up, and let your mind go, singing at the top of your lungs. This song is heavy with imagery, painting a postapocalyptic vision of a new life. The rhythmic bass, the multitude of voices in the chorus, the whole song explodes. I actually owned Night Visions for a few months before listening to the album in entirety, and only really did so after Gabriel was studying one day and had them playing. Catching bits and pieces, the music intrigued me and I decided to delve deeper into their sound, knowing I already liked a few songs. This one soon moved to the top position. I have always been attracted to heavy percussion and strong rhythmic sections, and this was like main-lining a colorful mixture of paints and textures into my brain. And, if you haven’t already, check out their performance on the Grammys with Kendrick Lamar. My head about exploded with the force of the performance, and a manic grin did not leave my face for some time.