Music Suggestions: February 24, 2013.

Dancing On My Own” by Robyn: This song has had me hooked ever since I downloaded volume one of the soundtrack to HBO’s Girls.  Originally I purchased the compilation for the fun. single “Sight of the Sun” (because I am a full-fledged, bona-fide fun. fan, much to the annoyance of my co-workers who have heard every song from their two albums played at least one gazillion times), but this song caught my attention and it has been on the playlist rotation ever since.  Aside from the catchy synth beats that cause an involuntary dance spasm (seriously, the head just starts moving, followed closely by the feet, and then you’re in a full body paroxysm grooving to the techno-rrific track), the lyrics definitely hit upon something I am sure most girls, and yes, even men, have felt.  She is singing about seeing a guy she likes and realizing that no matter what she does, he is not going to choose her to go home with him.  It’s a bit heart-wrenching, but the musical choice of a poppy rhythm only emphasizes her lyrics.  Any girl in any club could be dancing to the song and feel the meaning behind the words as she watches that guy pair off with another woman.  The combination creates a delicious twist of being a power ballad for the hopeless romantic girl dancing on her own.

Beta Love” by Ra Ra Riot: I remember the first time I discovered Ra Ra Riot.  It was the summer of 2009 and I could not stop listening to “Can You Tell” from their album The Rhumb Line.  The sound has changed somewhat, moving from a more full band sound to a produced electro-pop culmination of instruments, but their genius for catchy melodies and beats combined with simplistically deep (I know, I know, how can something be simple AND deep, but they use simple language to discuss complex ideas and emotions) lyrics is still present.  The band has a difficult history, which can account for some of the changes a listener can detect between earlier albums verses later ones.  Additionally, vocalist Wes Miles had a side project with Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend (band name Discovery, which I suggested in this very blog!) and the similarities are there in more recent singles.  Whether it was Wes Miles who influenced Discovery, or Rostam Batmanglij that influenced Wes Miles in Ra Ra Riot, it’s hard to tell, but either way the sound is alluring and addicting.

Halfway to Heaven” by POP ETC: I have taken the pill and become addicted to these guys.  I loved them as The Morning Benders when they had a more Dylan-esque appeal, but I can also say that they have me with their revamped sound.  Moving from the West Coast to Brooklyn sure does change a person, if the complete tear down and rebuild of this particular band is any indication.  Electro-pop (a common thread running through these recommendations) combined with overlapping vocals riding the wave of R&B and you have yourself a little slice of heaven (pun intended).  Repetition of sound and lyrics makes this song easy to get stuck in your head.  I often find myself singing it at work, and in the process getting strange looks.  I blame it on not many people knowing about these guys, so I am spreading the word.  Even though it might be because I am walking down a hall sans headphones singing.

Submarines” by The Lumineers: This track is off of the self-titled album, The Lumineers (which is you follow the link you can buy from Amazon for just $3.99).  Many people know this band for earlier singles “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love” (two songs I happen to adore), but I want to push this particular song because it might be my favorite on the album.  A very rustic sound, and somewhat coarse recording, but it adds a certain appeal to this band, giving it a generic song.  Every time I listen to their album I always find myself cruising their website for tour dates aching to see them live.  Vocals and piano dominate this particular track , with a very clear-cut melody flowing through it.  A hint of military march touching the music helps to add oomph to the lyrics.  It is the story of a man who sees a submarine and no one believes him.  They laugh or tell him he is seeing things.  The story is a simple one, discussing credibility.  It’s a contained story, which can make it easily overlooked.  But trust me, it’s something you want to give a listen to.

Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch:  If you have ever read this blog, you know I have a small obsession with Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine).  Maybe small is the wrong word.  I love the woman.  I love her voice.  I love the music.  And though people may call her overrated, I simply say the heart wants what the heart wants.  This particular track is found on Calvin Harris’s album 18 Months.  He is a wiz kid with techno beats making his mark in the EDM scene producing track after track of above par dance music.  It seems that everything this guy has touched in the past twelve to twenty-four months has turned to gold.  First stepping into main stream attention being the beats behind Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Calvin Harris scored high-profile artists to collaborate with him for his debut album.  This track was one such collaboration.  The music, if possible, reminds me of a Quentin Tarantino movie.  Try and figure that one out.  Aside from making me want to dance, the lyrics of this particular song spoke very strongly to me.  It is a love story, or I should say a story of unrequited love.  Being so enveloped by someone who gives you nothing back, but not being able to tear yourself away from it you beg for sweet nothing.  The chaotic rhythms of this song help to appreciate the words, mirroring the emotional confusion and devastation of such a situation.  Though I typically only post snippets of lyrics to drive home my point, I am going to post the full song:

“You took my heart and you held it in your mouth, and with a word all my love came rushing out, and every whisper, it’s the worst, emptied out by a single word.  There is a hollow in me now.  So I put my faith in something unknown (I’m living on such sweet nothing), but I’m tired of hope with nothing to hold (I’m living on such sweet nothing), and it’s hard to learn, and it’s hard to learn, you’re giving me such sweet nothing, sweet nothing, sweet nothing, you’re giving me such sweet nothing.  It isn’t easy for me to let it go, cause I’ve swallowed every single word, and every whisper, every sigh, eats away at this heart of mine.  There is a hollow in me now.  So I put my faith in something unknown (I’m living on such sweet nothing), but I’m tired of hope with nothing to hold (I’m living on such sweet nothing), and it’s hard to learn, and it’s hard to learn, you’re giving me such sweet nothing, sweet nothing, sweet nothing, you’re giving me such sweet nothing.  And it’s not enough to tell me that you care when we both know your words are empty air.  You give me nothing, nothing… sweet nothing, sweet nothing.”

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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.

 

SUGGESTIONS XX. (The Braid/Polyvinyl Edition in celebration of the new EP.)

“The Right Time” by Braid. This track is off of Braid’s upcoming EP, Closer to Closed. (Head over to Polyvinyl Records website to pre-order the CD and receive a digital download.) It combines the best qualities from Hey Mercedes and The Firebird Band (the remnants of Braid – Bob Nanna, Tod Bell, and Roy Ewing, and the addition Mark Dawursk – and Chris Broach’s band after Braid went on hiatus). There is a pop quality to the music with high energy, melodic guitar combined with percussion commonly heard in post-hardcore composition (a sporadic overlapping of snare, bass hits, and crash cymbal). There is a maturity interjected into the music as well, tying in the different interests and talents of the members. The sound culminates with a soaring riff heard over the vocals of the chorus (“…it can never be this good again, you know it’s true; even though we tried before we couldn’t see it through; it can never be this good again, you know it’s true; even though we tried before we couldn’t see it through…”) providing the auditory version of a cherry on top.

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Support Local Artists: Farraday, The Crown and Two Chairmen, and Addison Park..

Some plugs:

I have some of the most talented and amazing friends.  When I was in high school and living in the Chicago suburbs I had a group of friends dedicated to music.  They played in multiple bands determined to make a name for themselves.  Some of them have gone on to record albums, while others chose the spot behind the mixing board and went to school for sound production.  Either way they followed their respective dreams and have continued to amaze me with their talent and dedication.

For anyone who knows me they know that I am rather forth coming with my opinions.  I am one of the most judgmental people you will ever meet, especially when it comes to my books, my music, and my clothes (my mom calls me a natural critic).  I am not afraid to say I hate something and then list off the reasons why from greatest to least.  Stating that, I do not turn the other cheek for my friends.  If I think their band sucks, I tell them.  If I think their songs suck, I tell them.  If I think their gear sucks, I tell them.  And I expect them to do the same.  As a writer part of the job is rejection and change.  Editors hand back bleeding copy and people can reject synopsis and plot more times than you would want to hear.  But not once has that ever prevented me from stating my true opinion on a piece of art, music, or written word.  Or clothing, for that matter.  What goes around, comes around, and because of that I do my best to give honest-to-God criticism and not hold grudges.

With that said,  I want you to check out a few things:

Farraday, The Crown and Two Chairmen, and Addison Park…

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…