“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“.