Saturday, November 21, 2015

Great Expectations

If you have yet to hear Adele's newest album 25, officially released by XL/Columbia yesterday, you're about 10 breakdowns behind the curve. But don't fret, I'll give you the lowdown on the pop princess's long-awaited follow-up to 21 to ensure you maximize your crying -- er, listening -- time. 

Upon hearing "Hello," I was relieved. After four years, Adele delivered a first single that fulfilled her fans' great expectations, showcasing her artistic maturity while capitalizing on the heart-wrenching plot lines that have made her so successful. 

I was anxious to hear the entire album, as I had heard through the music industry grapevine that 25 was surprisingly (and disappointingly) "upbeat." I held my breath as I pressed play, rationalizing that Adele's version of upbeat was "Rolling In The Deep." 

Nonetheless, my initial reaction to 25 was more concerned than enthralled. I immediately noticed that the collection was kind of, well, lazy. The lyrics, the melodies, the harmonies. Aside from a few noteworthy tracks (listed below), there wasn't a ton of risk. In fact, I bet many of these tracks wouldn't even make Billboard had they been recorded by anyone other than Adele. That's when I had an epiphany. 

Adele hasn't made a career belting the best ballads ever written; she's made a career belting ballads in the best way ever recorded, at least in my music lifetime. She has a voice that spans a less-than-human range and the God-given gift to execute that technically perfect voice with deep and inconsolable emotion that people can't help but feel -- a technique that simply can't be taught. 

With that said, I did find an unexpected amount of variety on the album. "All I Ask" is reminiscent of a Broadway ballad, even a bit Stevie Wonder. "Million Years Ago" is a bit Sixties retro, a la Nancy Sinatra. 

My faves? "Love In The Dark," "I Miss You," "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" and "River Lea."

What should you skip? "Sweetest Devotion," "When We Were Young," and "Remedy."

PS. If you're looking for the album on Spotify or Apple Music, you won't find it. Adele has joined the ranks of Taylor Swift and Beyonce as one of the only artists of the 21st century with enough leverage to decline streaming services. It's "buy it" or bust. You can preview/buy on iTunes here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Other Robyn

My avid readers know that I discover much of my new music through nonconventional media. Films, television shows, commercials, coffee shops and more, my Shazam app works harder than the elastic on my leggings post-Thanksgiving meal. And movie trailers are no exception. 

While researching new releases last night, I was excited to see an extended trailer for Carey Mulligan's new release Suffragette (already in theaters) featuring a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." Yes, this track has been done too many times to count, covered by everyone from Dixie Chicks to The Smashing Pumpkins. But this one is different.

The best comparison I have to Robyn Sherwell is Imogen Heap. She's dark, breathy, and brooding. Her original tracks are similar to her rendition of "Landslide" -- showcasing the tone of her voice with minimal acoustics. Even her most upbeat and percussion-heavy song, "Islander," highlights her chilling harmonies. 

So far, she has just 4 tracks on an EP released this past March (available on iTunes). But if they're any indication of what's to come, move over Swedish Robyn. I have a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot more of this one in the near future.

Her EP can be found on Spotify here. Below you'll also find the Suffragette trailer and "Islander." 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Soundtrack Fit For A King

I've always dreaded Sunday evenings. Feeling guilty over how little I've slept that weekend; how much I've eaten; how few hours I've allocated to my studies. Then came "The Royals," and with it, a familiar fondness of English men and a newfound excitement for Sunday nights. 

As is now customary, networks showcase new music through both scripted and reality programming, a la the second MTV revolution. And "The Royals" -- E!'s first scripted series -- is hitting the mark. If you're a fan of the show, you'll appreciate the darts reference. 

Only 6 episodes in, the show has already featured some of my favorites, including Panama, Susie Suh, Augustines, Kodaline and Nick Mulvey, and introduced me to who will surely be some of my new obsessions. 

For a complete soundtrack, follow the show's Spotify playlist "The Royals - Season 1 Music" here. It was difficult, but I managed to extract my TOP 10 tracks from the series thus far.  

1. Nick Mulvey - "Fever To The Form"
If you're not yet obsessed with Nick Mulvey, you clearly haven't listened to his 2014 studio album First Mind. If that's the case, then in the now infamous words of Jennifer Love Hewitt, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? 

Insider tip: If you like what you're hearing, check out his cover of Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home," below.  

2. Seafret - "Overtime"
They may be young (19 and 22, to be exact), but they sure are talented. This English (shocker) duo hails from the North East of England. The band's name is a nod to the North Sea, as "seafret" is a local term defining the rolling mists that come in off the Sea during summer. That might seem like useless information, but you never know when it'll come up on Trivia Crack.

Anyway, this song is by no means their most popular. In fact, it's not even a single yet. My sources tell me it will be on Seafret's upcoming album. For now, watch this less-than-stellar video and trust me. 

3. Natalia Kills - "Problem"
Another Brit, but with gumption. She dropped out of prestigious LAMDA (the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) and signed with Music Group. Perhaps this song is autobiographical, as her sharp tongue has proved problematic in her professional life. She was fired from her post as "New Zealand X Factor" judge and mentor after the first live show for verbally abusing contestants. Doesn't Kills' back story make this song even cooler? I thought so too. 

4. Owl John - "Songs About Roses"
Owl John might be new to the charts, but the man behind the moniker certainly isn't. Owl John, a.k.a. Scott Hutchison, founded the indie rock band Frightened Rabbit over a decade ago and has since recorded four albums with the group. The Scottish singer/songwriter/guitarist released his first solo project this past August and debuted within the top 100 on the UK Albums Chart and within the top 20 on the Scottish Albums Chart. You go, Owl John! 

5. Mickey Avalon - "Rock Bottom"
This song won't be new to most of you (it was released about 4 years ago), so let this serve as a reminder that songs about drug abuse and prostitution are timeless. 


6. Elle King - "Ex's & Oh's"

7. Little May - "Boardwalks"

8. The Pow Pow - "Fill Me Up"

9.  Laleh - "Speaking of Truth"

10. Furs - "An Eye On The Vicious"

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hey Ocean! You're Awesome!

If I were to have the opportunity to interview Hey Ocean! personally, my list of questions would be extensive, albeit some trivial. I’d first inquire as to how imperative the exclamation point is to the band’s persona and how the trio arrived at the name. Second, I’d ask whether the fact that many of the band’s best tracks (in my opinion) favor the “water” motif is deliberate or merely coincidental. Finally, I’d probe as to how, after nine years, three albums, three EP’s, countless tours and yet almost no attention from the American media, the threesome has the stamina and fortitude to continue making such feel-good music.

Hey Ocean! is a Canadian indie rock and folk band from Vancouver. While two of the three members have been friends since childhood, it wasn’t until they met their bassist that they decided to form a band. Since 2005, the band has toured Canada widely, performing at music festivals from Calgary to Montreal. The group’s ethereal sound can be attributed to its sampling of different genres and incorporation of several instruments, including the flute. At times, the band’s sound reminds me of Sufjan Stevens (see “Islands”); at others, the female vocalist resonates a quirky pop a la Ingrid Michaelson. Regardless of the sound, I’m into it. And it couldn’t be more perfect for summer.

Here are my favorites, all off the band’s newest album IS, including a great cover of “Be My Baby.”

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

If you're at all familiar with my blog, you've undoubtedly come to expect (and adore) both my side-splitting humor and my uncanny ability to constantly feature attractive band members (it's a talent, really). Thus, I feel it is my duty to caution you: this post is deep. Like, philosophical deep. And if you've read or seen "The Fault in Our Stars," you aren't the least surprised.

If you're at all familiar with me, you know how much I revere film scores and soundtracks. I've said time and time again that movies and television shows would be emotionless, nay, meaningless without  their accompanying music. And while I certainly appreciate a good score (such as that of The Words, Amelie, Coco Avant Chanel, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Atonement, etc.), nothing sends me soaring quite like that cinematic moment in which a character's plight connects so deeply with a singer's voice, as if those two people transcend their dimensions, if just for a moment. One artist, heard but not seen, expressing the pain of another, seen but not heard. In my opinion, it's the most powerful collaboration of media. I could go even deeper into this convention of a "collaboration" by elaborating on how we, ourselves, are collaborating with the artists we see and hear by contributing our own experiences to these evocations, therefore producing reactions that are a culmination of what we acquire and what we reflect... but I won't. 

On to the music. The soundtrack to "The Fault in Our Stars" does not disappoint. It features some of the gods and goddesses of today's indie/emo scene, including M83, Birdy, STRFKR, Grouplove, Lykke Li, Ray LaMontagne and Ed Sheeran. Here are my favorites from the film:

"Boom Clap" by Charli XCX (featured on the film's trailer)

"Simple As This" by Jake Bugg

"Not About Angels" by Birdy

"All of the Stars" by Ed Sheeran

"All I Want" by Kodaline

"Long Way Down" by Tom Odell

"Without Words" by Ray LaMontagne

"Wait" by M83

For more on the film, visit the official website at 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

As Seen on TV

"COME BACK" - David O'Dowda

There's something simultaneously intriguing and infuriating about a man of mystery like David O'Dowda. About all I know of him is that he is Irish, hails from Manchester, and is absolutely adorable. I became enraptured with his haunting voice when I first saw FX's promo for its new show "Tyrant," and was instantly reminded of that Bon Iver/ James Vincent McMorrow sound I so adore.

"THIS YEAR" - Cooper

If you've watched even a moment of E! programming this month (right...I haven't either), you're by now familiar with the new promo for "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." Cooper (short for Kate Cooper) is no newbie to the indie music scene. In fact, she fronted an Aussie band called Iron On since 2002, recently going solo and releasing several singles including "Flood" and "Heaviest of Weights."

"YOU & ME" (Flume Remix) - Disclosure ft. Eliza Doolittle

If you haven't seen the Lacoste ad entitled "The Big Leap" that features the Flume Remix of Disclosure's "You & Me" yet, do yourself a favor and do so immediately. You've already heard of Disclosure thanks to the band's now top 40 hit "Latch" featuring Sam Smith. And since Disclosure is an electronic music duo (comprised of two English brothers), the two have similarly enlisted Eliza Doolittle's vocals on this track.

Monday, January 27, 2014

GRAMMY'S 2014: Great Expectations

My mom once told me that, if I can't say anything nice, I shouldn't say anything at all. Luckily, my mother has grown to accept my outspoken nature, because I (unfortunately) have very few compliments to pay the Recording Academy, and whoever else is responsible for last night's slumber party. Which do you want first - the good news or the bad? Okay, fine. 

The good news. LL Cool J is somewhat amusing and totally endearing again (as opposed to last year's "funeral" fiasco). He's so endearing, in fact, that he can insult Taylor Swift and provoke a high-five rather than a Kacey Musgraves stare-down. Performance-wise, John Legend reminded us all why he's no "ordinary people" during his performance of "All of Me." Hands down, the best of the night. We were also reminded why Pink is not just a Covergirl, but Superwoman. Yes - completely lame that her team couldn't come up with a new concept from last year's show (or her tours, for that matter); but no less amazing to see her sing live (and so, so well) while hanging upside down from a bed sheet. To then watch her flow effortlessly into "Just Give Me A Reason" with Nate Ruess, hitting her notes with such precision and ease, makes me wonder whether she has bionic lungs. 

Keith Urban may be "a little bit country," and Gary Clark Jr. may be "a little bit rock and roll;" but they're both insanely talented guitar players. And if your ears and eyes didn't perk up during their solo, you're, well, a little bit stupid. Carole King and Sara Bareilles were also a perfect match, with their mash-up of King's "Beautiful" and Bareilles' "Brave." 

Now for the bad news. It's become obvious that the Grammy's are trying WAY too hard to pair artists and mix genres in hopes of fabricating a "Grammy moment" or "make history." Yet, that's exactly what the Academy is accomplishing - a fabrication. It is painfully forced and contrived, robbing viewers of the organic experience one desires from a live show. The quintessential illustration of this awkwardness was Miranda Lambert and Billie Joe Armstrong's homage to Phil Everly with "When Will I Be Loved." The harmonies were fine and the song is a classic, but it just didn't work. The same can be said for Chicago and Robin Thicke (although I liked each of their performances individually) and Metallica and Lang Lang. Alternatively, I was pleased with the collaboration between Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar.

My biggest let-downs, by far, were Beyonce and Jay Z, and Lorde. Perhaps my great expectations are to blame. But what in the name of single ladies were Bey and her hub thinking by opening the show with "Drunk In Love?" Anything - I mean ANYTHING - would have been better than that, and I'm not even referring to the fact that they tried to procreate a sibling for Blue on national television. I suppose, in hindsight, it set the tone for a four-hour "What is going on?" moment. As for Lorde, meh. Epic disappointment. And while this is certainly not a fashion blog, I feel as though I'd lose credibility if I didn't at least acknowledge Katy Perry's witch costume. Did she buy it at Walgreen's? I mean, really. 

To end on a positive note, I'll say that I loved the Academy's use of amateur YouTube-esque covers to introduce nominees. I was also a huge fan of Kacey Musgraves, and it's not (entirely) because of her stank face. The most fun performance of the night was Pharell, Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder's rendition of "Get Lucky," despite its rocky start. Daft Punk's use of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and "Le Freak (Freak Out)" made the song even more infectious. It was the first time I saw everyone in the audience, old and young alike, get up on their feet and enjoy themselves. It even earned a peace sign from the ever-stylish Yoko Ono.