It’s funny how we learn about new music today in the digital world. I haven’t quite turned in my music journalism card yet, so I receive many pitches for new and established artists. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a music publicist–so I won’t pimp my own artists in this spot. So besides those press releases, I hear about new artists through my clients, through other taste makers like Val’s List and Bob Lefsetz and Kings of A&R. I hear about great music from trusted friends. I hear stuff from colleagues repping cool new acts. I hear songs on TV shows or in movies, or on the radio through bumper music (but almost never from the actual radio anymore). And occasionally from online radio stations. That’s it. It’s amazing how music will find its way into our ears and onto our hard drives now. And speaking of that, I had better purge my iTunes a bit before my PC explodes. Meanwhile, here are some things I’m listening to that you should check out if you feel so inclined.
“Skeleton” by The Good Natured–If you’re a fan of synth-driven ’80’s pop, this title track to the British group’s 2011 EP will take you back to those days a bit, while sounding like it could work on today’s Top 40 radio–whatever that may be. I found this group through a pitch from their publicist, who is pimping their new single, “Video Voyeur.” Now, that video will surely take you back to the early MTV days.
“Celebrate Tonight” by Allen Stone–One of my clients opened for this kid, who really came out of nowhere. He’s a scrawny Seattle-bred white kid with an old school R&B soul. Kind of like Daryl Hall, who took Stone in for a “Live from Daryl’s House” session that literally gives me goosebumps when I see and hear it. The best part is seeing the unbridled joy on Stone’s face as Daryl plays along and sings with him.
“Show and Tell” by Sugar & The Hi-Lows–Nashville singer/songwriters Trent Dabbs and Amy Stroup collaborate here for some pure magic–beautiful melody, arrangement, and a soaring yet lo-fi harmony drenched chorus. It also has a mild ’70’s vibe ala Josh Rouse’s 1972 album (sorry, I have a penchant for music from past decades!).
“Almost Blue” by Joseph Arthur–This guy’s music follows me around, and it’s sheer brilliance. And this past week he released a new double album on his website, available for free download (though there is no way I’m not hitting the “donate” button–I want Joseph Arthur to make music until he’s 80).
“Sweetheart Like You” by World Party–Their new Arkeology set (releasing next Tuesday April 10) is 70 tracks deep and features old songs, new songs, covers, live recordings and more. The World Party fan in your life just has to have this. This song is a Bob Dylan cover that singer Karl Wallinger spins his own way, and it winds up sounding like it jumped off of The New Radicals’ only (and genius) album from 1998.
“Drumming Song” by Florence + The Machine–There is something purely intoxicating about Florence + the Machine, and this song embodies that desire to get drunk with her voice and music, as well as the booming percussion. That said, you just have to check out this acoustic video from KEXP–there is no auto-tune, no slick production–mostly Florence’s positively sick vocals out front.
“Please Stay Strong” by Stolen Silver–I guess it’s okay for me to talk about a band put together with members from a former client band of mine? Well, I just did. These guys have an incredible acoustically driven, harmony-rich sound with some killer songs.
“Forget the Diamonds” by Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer–Just like Sugar & The Hi-Lows above, this duo makes magic together. It’s Americana, yet really it’s just haunting and melodic music that you will find really hard to stop listening to.
“Wine Dark Sea” by Daniel Tashian–Tashian is one of those under-the-radar Nashville cats who I’m certain writes insanely sweet melodies in his sleep. The front man for The Silver Seas steps aside with a solo project here, but it’s really an extension of his band, and something that will tide this big fan over until the next Seas release.
Okay, so I just realized that I could do this all day. But maybe I should save it and do this more often. What do you think? Hit me up here, or on Facebook or Twitter. And thanks for hanging out in my music room for a bit.
(*Spoken as Jimmy Fallon doing wacky FM DJ*) And we’re back! Actually, we were planning on being back a few weeks ago, but Andrew McMahon, lead singer and songwriter of Jack’s Mannequin, is a tough guy to pin down. Turn your back on him for a second, and he’s peeled off in his tour bus to do another four months of dates. We caught his final show with Guster last month, and it was a blast, especially when the two teamed up for a cover of Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.”
The Mannequin’s third album, People and Things, was released last week, and when McMahon finally decided to sit down and rest for a second, we were quick to strike: Tell us the 10 songs rocking your world at the moment, or your piano bites it. Surprisingly, there is little piano to be found here, but there are lots of happy techno beats. Rave on, rave on.
“Safe and Sound,” Capital Cities
A great tune in the indie/techno vein.
“Our Hearts Are Wrong,” Jessica Lea Mayfield
“The only time I miss you is every single day.” That says it all.
All right, so here’s the pitch to anyone who was tuned in to modern rock when the scene first started coming together (that would be the late ’80s, in case you weren’t sure): “Cassette 2012,” the new single by Finnish quartet Delay Trees, is the best song the Ocean Blue never wrote.
And now, lets put that into context for anyone who was born after 1982.
The Ocean Blue were a alt-pop band out of Hershey, Penn. They released their debut album in late 1989 on Sire Records — back when, you know, the label you signed to made a very clear statement about what kind of band you were — and they quickly became darlings of MTV’s late-night modern rock show “120 Minutes.” Their songs were dreamy, jangly, and melodic beyond words. Singer David Schelzel’s low tenor was quite airy (possibly a precursor to the breathy Manchester bands a year or so later), and the musicianship was tight. Their self-titled first record remains a late ’80s alt-rock gem.
And “Cassette 2012” sounds just like that album.
The rest of their self-titled debut isn’t quite the dead ringer for the Ocean Blue, but it’s in the ballpark. Atmospheric arrangements, songs steeped in melody…it’s damn good. It doesn’t stand a chance of storming the charts on this side of the pond, but ten bucks says this will make a few soundtrack supervisors very, very happy.
God love the Republic Tigers. Their insanely melodic, mid-tempo pop is delightfully out of time, but not in a ‘let’s cash in on this retro thing’ kind of way. Think of them as a moder-day equivalent of a band like Bourgeois Tagg – thinking man’s pop for teenagers. Is that the next niche market?
Sadly, probably not, which is why we love the Tigers for doing it anyway. Their 2008 album Keep Color still receives steady airplay on the iPod, and their new EP, No Man’s Land, is more of the same, including a revved-up version of Keep Color track “The Nerve.” Check out this new song, “Merrymake It with Me,” which we’re convinced is a tip of the hat to Swedish power popsters the Merrymakers. Well, the title is. The song, not so much.
New album coming out later this year. Hopefully this will tide you over until then.
This Irish dance-rock trio is fast climbing our list of favorite bands. The song “How Your Heart Is Wired,” from their 2009 album Blue Lights on the Runway, was in power rotation at BE headquarters, so when their new album Bloodless Coup arrived in the mail, we popped that puppy right in the player. Before “Sugar High” was even over, it was our favorite song on the album.
Man, is it nice to hear two chords used so effectively. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit, and this song keeps it simple in all the best ways. Well done, lads.