“One Day We’ll All Be Ghosts”
1. The Head and the Heart – “Ghosts” (4:19)
2. Don Ryan – “This Town” (3:38)
3. The Cat Empire – “The Heart is a Cannibal” (4:06)
4. Oceanship – “Hotblack” (3:39)
5. Sounds Under Radio – “The Arsonist” (3:52)
6. Mikky Ekko – “Pull Me Down” (3:29)
7. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive” (3:08)
8. Matt Hires – “Forever” (3:28)
9. Tim Noyes – “Blue Buildings” (3:16)
10. Alesso (ft. Matthew Koma) – “Years (Radio Edit)” (3:16)
11. James Blake – “Retrograde” (3:44)
12. alt-J – “Interlude 2″ (1:18)
13. Among Savages – “Raging Sun” (4:14)
14. The Kicks – “Live Fast, Die Young” (4:48)
15. Joe Pug – “The Great Despiser” (4:06)
16. Josh Ritter – “Can’t Go To Sleep (Without You)” (3:17)
Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many NOW “HEAR! HEAR!” THIS playlists using Spotify, which I hope will help put the spotlight on emerging artists worthy of mainstream appeal. I’ll start each list with a current song or artist and use their music to branch out, creating playlists which work as a whole. There won’t always be a literal theme to the list — in this case, ghosts don’t play a role specifically in every song — but sonically the lists will showcase how little difference there is today between many pop-centric hitmakers and their indie kin.
This week I jumpstarted this list off The Head and the Heart’s exquisite pop hook known as “Ghosts,” from which the title line is drawn. From there it was only a short hop between my favorite Don Ryan track (which also hearkens back to experimental indie-folk in the veins of Vandaveer) and then Oceanship’s “Hotblack.” Elsewhere on the journey you’ll find Australia’s most astonishing export (The Cat Empire), England’s ultimate art-rock savants (alt-J), and several hits which currently push the pop envelope into EDM inspired territory (Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and Alesso’s club-worthy “Years” in particular).
There’s even a song from the Grammys’ ultimate mystery man Mikky Ekko, who stole tons of Twitter time when he sat on a stool and sang with Rihanna while inspiring many online to wonder who the hell he was in the first place. “Pull Me Down” definitely isn’t afraid to make its presence heard. This could easily be the “Somebody I Used To Know” of 2013. It’s a song I fully expect will stick in your heads. Just make sure you’ve played the list all the way through before you go back and hit repeat a few dozen times.
In the end, I hope you’ll be inspired to create playlists of your own, building off your own favorite songs to give us a picture of where you see pop music heading in the new year. Feel free to comment on this list below and then post your own. Let’s really make “Hear! Hear!” a place to explore musical threads and get a conversation started! And if you hear a band you like, click the links above to check them out further on Facebook.
Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave pushes the boundaries of audacious art-rock, the year’s first outright stunner
When I first heard Alt-J’s genre-slaughtering blend of dubstep, alternative pop and infectious art-rock, I didn’t believe my ears. I searched for these songs in as many iterations as possible, reaching for what made them so damned explosive. Clearly there’s a reason the album An Awesome Wave is a front-runner for England’s prestigious Mercury Prize — these college students turned alt-music saviors don’t care about the lines they’re about to obliterate. They’re simply out to make music that makes you feel something.
The album plays best as a whole, letting the art-rock through-line electrify the circuit. Still, for such a high-concept piece of experimentation, An Awesome Wave brims full of staggeringly infectious melodies. “Fitzpleasure” on its own serves as their ultimate example, almost Jethro Tull-ish in its ability to morph through countless genres and mini-songs in the course of a four minute pop jam. It also benefits from the dirtiest lyric ever to sneak its way into an otherwise radio-worthy hook. This is Dark Side of the Moon meets Hot Chip, and the mad juxtapositions stack the deck. You cannot listen to this and not want to move! It’s an unimpeachable imperative.
Music fans willing to subvert their expectations and delve into an album which is as much pop as artful, daring genre exploration will find much to savor about Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave. By decimating the line between art-rock and the mainstream, the band creates new horizons for every listener who confesses to give a shit about music as a creative art-form. Google around every corner, layers upon layers make this the year’s most surprising outright stunner.