Suggestions: January 26, 2014

Fantasy” by MS MR: Over my mini-winter break (I took two blissful weeks off work) my boyfriend’s brother introduced me to this duo.  In a musical landscape where male and female duos are the emerging niche of aesthetically pleasing auditory escapes (or in other words, the new popular demand of the music scene) this group is swiftly rising to the top, at least for my ears.  I am a big fan of Matt and Kim, Phantogram, and Mates of State (all falling into this subcategory) however MS MR has managed to eclipse these other dynamic duos.  It could be the all-encompassing sound, with strong rhythm sections, or the overlapping vocal harmonies that float atop the music; it doesn’t hurt that the lyrics poise questions that are relatable and poetic.  Where many lyrics reflect on either broken hearts or unbreakable relationships, MS MR opens the door to the darker more sinister thoughts caged in our minds and subconscious all the while done with vocals that sound as if they came from the love child of Florence + the Machine and Adele.  My favorite lyric from this track: “How many hours will I let slip away before I realize existing and living are not the same, are not the same.” Other highly recommended tracks from their first full length, Secondhand Rapture: “Ash Tree Lane,” “Hurricane,” and “Think of You“.  Also, they have an amazing cover of LCD Soundsystem‘s “Dance Yrslf Clean” on their EP of remixes entitled, Fantasy.

Dissolve Me” by Alt-J: First off, let me say this, one of the major reasons I like and appreciate this group is because of lead singer Joe Newman’s voice.  It is extremely unique and hypnotizing.  Hailing from the UK, this band offers an intriguing combination of diverse music composition and vocal shock and awe.  The first time I listened to their album An Awesome Wave I was unsure what to think.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this was not a negative thing, I honestly believe it was because I was so engrossed and pleased that when attempting to describe them to a friend I barely managed to say anything but: “His voice, man, that voice.”  And I can say that this is one of the few bands that it doesn’t matter if you listen via headphones, on an iHome or other speaker system, or in the car, there is no detraction from the music.  Layered rhythms and distinct melodies, this group plays with sound allowing a full-bodied experience.  I have not listened to one of their tracks and thought to myself, “there were empty spaces,” but rather I have been left with pleasure at their ability to fill those spaces with an almost religious accompaniment of notes, both instrumentally and vocally.  At the risk of sounding clichéd, Alt-J has provided me the closest thing to a mind-expanding and spiritual experience, especially with the opening track aptly titled “Intro”.  Other highly recommended tracks: “Intro” and “Breezeblocks“.

Learn to Dance” by Andrew McMahon: To give you a bit of background, Andrew McMahon is the lead singer of Something Corporate and the voice behind Jack’s Mannequin.  He is an extremely talented individual who belts out insightful lyrics while providing full-bodied piano accompaniment to pop-punk and alt-rock anthems.  If you went through high school in the early 2000s, you probably know about Drive-Thru records and Something Corporate, and you probably lamented and prayed for McMahon when doctor’s diagnosed him with leukemia in 2005.  In 2013 he released his début solo album The Pop Underground, which this track is from.  Though this album is easily identified as McMahon, it is his first to explore combining electronica and his distinct forte on piano.  Additionally, the lyrics are probably his most revealing to date, as well as at times most disturbing.  Despite some dark imagery, you can sense pure relief and joy.  The music composition reflects these insights providing the auditory equivalent to beams of sunlight poking through dark clouds.  Other highly recommended tracks: “Synesthsia” and “After the Fire“.

“Bravado” by Lorde: This talented 16 (possibly now 17) year old vocal phenom released an EP before her critically acclaimed Pure Heroine called The Love Club.  You can find this track on the EP.  It definitely showcases her vocal chops and intriguing ability to combine saintly choral singing with hip hop rhythm and beats.  This particular track begins slow with not much more than her voice and an organ, soon combining over lapping vocals that rise up like a church choir.  Right when you wonder where the song is going an 808 beat begins and your mind gets blown.  What I find most intriguing and beautiful is that these two distinct types of music, a cappella like vocals and hip hop measures, occupy the same auditory space without one overpowering the other.  Somehow Lorde has managed to mate chamber music to popular composition.  Again, mind blown.  Other highly recommended tracks: “Tennis Court” and “Royals“.

Reflections” by MisterWives: Recently discovered by pure coincidence, I am happy that I tripped into their music.  With Duffy-esque vocals and BeeGees disco rhythms, this group just invites you to dance (and in fact, I have often been swaying to their music at work).  This particular track subtly begins and builds until it breaks into a Saturday Night Fever combination of electric guitar, drum beats, and vocal harmonies.  I beg you to listen to this song without physically reacting to it, either by tapping your foot, swaying, or straight up dancing disco style through your living room.  Ironically, the lyrics discuss the tumult of realizing affections are not mutual, and dealing with the “how-to” in moving on.  Bringing an iconic and very era specific sound into modernity is a difficult thing to do, especially when the era is an extremely stereotypical one, like the 70s.  However, MisterWives spins it in their favor by adding variants in rhythm and harmonies that differentiate their sound just enough to not be confused with epic 70’s disco ballads.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to dance à la John Travolta with my puppy.  Other highly recommended tracks: “Twisted Tongue,” “Kings and Queens,” and “Imagination Infatuation“.

SUGGESTIONS: SUMMER EDITION (Plus I forgot what number I was at…)

“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen:  Okay, I know what you’re all thinking, “That song is generic and being repeated a thousand times on the radio?  Really?  Really Stephanie?!”  But, yes.  It’s a good summer pop song.  Remember the days of “California Gurls” and “Blow” and other I’ve-heard-this-so-many-times-I-want-to-barf songs that come on in the summer and then remarkably every time you hear them you think, “Wow, what an awesome summer?”  This is 2012’s version of that song.  Catchy, with the chorus dominating the entirety of the song (making it easier to remember) and almost too sugary you seriously believe you might go into a coma post listen; that’s this song.  The music is generic with string ensemble courtesy Apple’s garage band (no doubt) and a basic beat that makes it easy to bounce around your apartment to.  The lyrics are nothing great, no depth or insight, but it does give confidence to those young listeners.  It’s a girl giving her number to a guy.  Coy, cute, and slightly embarrassed, this song promotes female action and not inaction when it comes to that first awkward introduction.  Why is it always up to the guy?  Come on, girls, we have femme-balls!  Best line: “And all the other boys try to chase me, so call me maybe.”

“Midnight City” by M83:  Okay, without a doubt if you have walked into a Forever Twenty-One or hipster dive bar, you have heard this song.  With a beat reminiscent of 80s pop and softly spoken or sung vocals, this song takes the cake in did-I-step-into-a-wormhole-and-end-up-in-1984-somehow singles.  Off of the most recent album from M83, the French solo (once duo) continues to awe with their reverb focused electronic pop music.  Not going to lie, was pretty sure I fell in love with this song when I first heard it, wishing the rest of the world would soon follow in benevolent worship because despite the repetitious beat, this song digs deep into your subconscious where an “I love the 80s” sticker sits waiting for recognition.

“Warrior” by Kimbra (feat. Mark Foster and A-Trak): This song has become one of my favorites, often times put on repeat much at the annoyance of anyone around me.  Kimbra, also known as that girl in the “Somebody I Used to Know” song and video, delights with her vocals once again, with the beats of A-Trak and guest vocals from Mark Foster (of Foster the People).  This song is actually part of an advertisement for Converse sneakers (there is my plug), but despite its origins, it kicks some serious electro-pop ass.  Like any good dance-based song, it uses repetitive rhythm and beats to encourage hip swivels and head bopping.  Also, friendly tip, good for highway driving.

“Some Nights” by fun.:  Okay, we all know that I am truly and rightly obsessed with Nate and his musical and lyrical kingdom.  An original lover and follower of The Format, it was with great pride that I began to follow fun. and enjoyed his musical intensity and imagination with the combination of Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff.  Loving songs like “Walking the Dog,” “Benson Hedges,” and “All the Pretty Girls,” it is no surprise that I have fallen head over heels in love with fun.’s second single (“Some Nights”) from their sophomore album of the same name.  Gaining popularity this past year with the annoying repetition of “We Are Young” (another single I actually enjoy), fun. was able to propel themselves into commercial success.  Usually having a feeling of disgust when a band “sells out,” I have nothing but love for these guys.  They are doing something so beautiful, and undoubtedly for them, something that they have striven for.  What I love about this track is the use of percussion.  The anthemic chorus is beautiful, as well.  It’s so easy to sing along to, even shout to.  And they are relatable thoughts.  I have so many favorite lyrical moments from this song that it’s hard to choose.  I always agree with and shout out “Who the FUCK wants to die alone?”  Never one to hide from sharing some of this life, Nate often brings up familiar feelings about growing up, leaving home, questioning about love, life, and pursuits of happiness.  It’s a great summer song, and especially one for those twenty-somethings that are floundering looking for what their passion and calling are.  Only negative (sorry guys!) is the use of auto-tune.  Nate, I know you can do so much vocally, why did you use auto-tune?!

“Heartbeats” by The Knife: And I now throw in my wrench, my relative unknown, my indie song, my not-commercially-known anthem for the summer.  This song was introduced to me LAST summer, and I have yet to STOP listening to it.  An electro-pop song that is crudely constructed (comparatively speaking to the above mentioned songs), this underground gem sounds like a nintendo game met classic Asian music and they gave birth to an 80s pop addiction.  Give it a listen and you will not be able to stop listening to it.  It vibes with the summer sun.  Just put it on and let yourself sink into it.

 

Implications of fun. (Riviera on 6/8.)

It has been a long time coming, one of these longer narrative posts.  Tonight was a night that was both magical and emotional.  My ex-fiance and I bonded over our love of The Format.  He had a lyric written on a folder, I hummed “The First Single” so many times that I am sure people, to this day, correlate that song and myself.  We developed a mutual passion over going to concerts and seeing them live, because in all honesty, The Format was one of the best live bands ever.  Nate Ruess, singer and lyricist, had an odd presence on stage and Sam Means brought the business with alternative rock that meshed a variety of instrumentation and catchy hooks.  The two of them were auditory gold that would leave me humming with a certain sense of pride and pleasure.  The memories evoked from listening to my favorite tracks are a wonderful combination of sadness and happiness. …the implications of love and music and fun.

SUGGESTIONS XVI.

Here are my latest suggestions.  I will be giving the blog a new look and format in the near future, but for now, I leave you with some choice songs.  I am sorry for the extended disco absence, but I am back as the chaos of my life is finally calming down.  Please enjoy these tracks, and since I am thinking of renovating this wonderful website, I welcome comments and concerns and suggestions of your own!

The Polyphonic Spree, The Plimsouls, Noah & the Whale, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, and Alexander…

SUGGESTIONS XV.

Florence + the Machine, He is We, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Patrick Stump…