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"