Not since I heard Bloomington, Indiana’s now defunct 16-piece funk outfit Flattus have I heard anything as immediately infectious as Doctorfunk, a band as comfortable dabbling in off-kilter covers as they are breaking fresh ground. I submit for your approval this funkadelic bad-assed restructuring of AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” which is as fitting a summer jam as I’ve heard in years. The jazzy funk backdrop gives the song a fresh new groove, but the vocals stick close enough to the original that this serves as a fitting homage to one of rock’s greatest tracks. For more, check out Second Opinion, the band’s exceptional sophomore album, produced by Jeff Tamalier, who formerly produced or played guitar for Tower of Power, the Strokeland Superband, Cold Blood and others over the years. And follow them on Facebook, you’ll want to definitely keep these guys on your radar screen!
Adam Duritz is excited about the new Crows record due out at some point this fall, and I’ve got to say, based on a first listen to “Palisades Park,” the band’s returned to form and is ready to craft “imaginative music” again. Says Duritz, via Billboard:
“The songs are different from anything I’ve ever written before, I’ve got to say. They’re a little more imaginative, a little more imagery-heavy. They’re willing to be a little goofier and have a little more of a sense of humor, occasionally. It’s really cool.”
The eight-minute track (nine minutes plus on video) opens with an intro which seems almost the direct continuation of “Chelsea” off Across A Wire, eighty seconds which then catch fire as Duritz then begins singing an almost stream-of-consciousness lyric akin to his live versions of “Round Here” or “Rain King,” a real return to the sound in which the band has yet to dabble in non-concert form this decade. For a guy like Duritz, who has fought more than a few battles with his creativity over the years, to get back to basics in this vein without losing what made his early songs like “Anna Begins” so immediately indelible is quite an impressive act. It’s the careening free-wheeling style of his lyrics which makes this song stand out, even as the musical arrangement is equally innovative, shifting style and meter in a frenetic burst of spectacular pop songwriting.
It only took nine minutes to shift from “who knew he still had songs like this in him before?” to wondering how long we have to wait to hear the other eight. And if they’re as good as “Palisades Park,” I fully expect the album to top my year-end list.
I’ll admit that Brian Vander Ark’s vocals on the entirety of Villians soundtracked my early high school years, giving me plenty of reason to play the album and dozens like it on repeat as I navigated teenage awkwardness. Unfortunately the ’90s alternative rock scene wasn’t built on longevity, at least where myopic, aurally insensitive radio execs were concerned, and bands like the Verve Pipe, Harvey Danger and Semisonic never got the long-term traction they so richly deserved. It wasn’t that they couldn’t write another hit, but rather that radio and label honchos wouldn’t have known said hit if it broadsided them.
Thirteen years after their last full-length rock album, however, The Verve Pipe returns June 17th with Overboard, an album which relights the fire under their blend of well-crafted pop and catch-you-off-kilter rock. With “Crash Landing,” the album’s first promotional single, they show you really can’t go back again — this is no “Villians” or “Photograph” — but you can put a new spin on something and reinvent yourself in a way which is refreshing and well worth the listen. “I’m hearing words no one’s spoken,” he sings. “And I can feel my heart beat though I know it’s broken. Nothing is the way it seems, like being awake in a dream.” The chorus then crash-lands with an impact that launches this song instantly into the memory banks.
If you’re looking for the band to tread water through nostalgic carbons of what you heard while walking those sophomore hallways, you may be disappointed. But it’s refreshing to hear a band return after all these years, arriving with the verve to sound as fresh in the current musical climate as their alt-grunge did when we first heard it in the early ’90s. That the band’s songs feature hooks as brilliantly singable even after a decade and a half in limbo is the icing on the cake. Overboard is the most pleasant surprise of the summer so far, and it’s an album you shouldn’t miss.
Brooklyn’s Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! brings a sensational blend of U2 arena rock and Augustana-inspired pop to the table via the entirety of their self-titled debut album, due out April 1st. The band spent time with producer John Fields (Switchfoot, Soul Asylum, The Rembrandts) in Los Angeles working to get the sound right, and I’ll come out and say it: there’s not a dud on the album.
“In Over My Head” in particular is a shining example of what the band offers. “I keep my heart in a little box … I should have known there’d be hell to pay,” Will Farr sings, backed by shimmering guitars, thundering percussion and echoing hand-clap fueled backing vocals. And while he may feel as though he’s in over his head, listeners will fall head-over-heels as they sing along with this perfectly radio-ready nugget.
Help break this band wide and share the track now, available to stream and download exclusively at “Hear! Hear!” via the above link. It’s easy to say there’s nothing great making it to radio but it’s another thing entirely to sit back and let something this good slip away. (You can follow Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! on Facebook and Twitter.)
There’s nothing about this song lyrically that would typically draw me in, but the hook to “The Silence” is immediate and I could legitimately expect to hear PAZ’s latest played on radio stations in the same mix as Imagine Dragons, Skrillex and Avicii, something which should attest to its EDM bona-fides. In the end the hook is all that matters, and it will have you singing along mindlessly long before you have the inkling to think about what you’re singing. That’s the essence of a great pop song, one which grabs hold and drags you kicking and screaming into liking it, and then getting you to spread the word even when you know you’ll be tempted to attach “guilty pleasure” to the description.
“Hear! Hear” is excited to be the first place you’ll hear “The Silence,” which you can stream via Soundcloud below. When more information is available about the full mixtape, we’ll let you know here as well.
Like a twisted blend of Cracker, Tom Waits and Jason Isbell filtered through the sensibility of the Coens’ Fargo, Swedish artist Tom Levin defies the “sanctity” of genres with this riot of a single off his latest album Them Feet. Hell, even Levin hints that this is his version of “Minnesota Nice,” twisted through a wondrous sludge of psuedo-Southern Folk and gothic Gospel touches. Says Levin:
The lyrics to “Pull Yourself Together” are inspired by how people in the [American South] are very good at letting someone know, in a polite way, when they are behaving like an idiot. I wrote the song because I had to get my disappointment with certain peoples’ behavior out of my system. “Bless your little heart” takes the edge off almost any insult and sometimes makes it sound like a compliment. If you or anyone you know ever needs to tell someone they are being a total jackass.just send them this song.
Watch it below and make your night just a little more special!
NEW MUSIC MONDAY: Schizophrenic melodies, synths unite adventurous singles from Ninetails, Arum Rae and Sleep Thieves
Ninetails – “An Aria”
Album: Quiet Confidence
Release Date: March 10, 2014
A trippy exercise in merging a dense yet adventurously free-wheeling arrangement, this second single from Ninetails’ upcoming album Quiet Confidence showcases a band with music perfect for close headphone listening. The vocals hide hauntingly out of reach, as the ears focus on the ornately schizophrenic melody, with bells and horns competing amid a constantly shifting aural backdrop. Definitely music worth savoring.
Arum Rae – “2001”
Album: Warranted Queen EP
Release Date: April 22, 2014
The backdrop of this endlessly addictive single which Spin dubbed “Auto-Tuned soul” is awash in synths and electronic dub elements, but Arum Rae’s distinct vocals delve into 808s and Heartbreak-esque territory while making subtle shifts which belie her advanced study of jazz vocals at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. What sets the song apart is that constant shifting between the worlds of hip-hop, pop and electronic, with a minimal use of instruments allowing Arum Rae’s voice to really twist and turn. There are moments where her voice, heard through this chaotic prism, takes on a vaguely middle-eastern touch, as though blending human voice and synth strings.
Sleep Thieves – “City Of Hearts”
Album: You Want The Night
Release Date: Spring 2014
The intro at first sounds like come of Enya’s more twisted synth tracks, but once the drums kick in this single quickly falls into a groove more akin to the sound of the Knife, as filtered through the more poppy nature of early Tegan and Sara. It’s a sound both modern and retro, which is sure to give Sleep Thieves plenty of potential appeal. Their debut You Want The Night, which as a full-length follows their successful 2012 EP Islands, is due out this spring and should quickly assert the Dublin band’s global status among synth-pop taste-makers. It doesn’t hurt that the song is instantly ear-catching and repeatable, which makes you want to blast it from your speakers to anyone who will listen.
Nikki Lerner’s entire album Longings is well worth your listen, but if you’ve only got time for one song, try the subtle building “Plea,” which showcases her pop-meets-jazz leanings in full-on glory. This is an example of a song taking its time to earn a listener’s respect, building layer upon layer of melody as Lerner’s vocals swim among the notes, elevating them from mere pop to something significantly more. This is mournful blues, soaring pop and multi-textured jazz all rolled into one five minute track, something you have to hear again and again to fully absorb. From the pizzicato strings at the first chorus, which immediately make the hairs on the neck stand alert, to the background vocals which add depth and clarity to the melody, this is a song built upon attention to detail. Every detail brings you back. By the time the song builds to its apex — “Please forgive me!” lingering in the air over thundering toms and an epic string instrumental provided by jazz violinist Zach Brock, there’s no going back.
You can buy the album via her Bandcamp page.
“I’ll fly like a cannonball,” Glee-alum Lea Michele sings on her first original single, but what goes up eventually must also come down in a gory explosion of pyrotechnic overkill. At least that’s what happens here in a single which explodes in all the wrong ways, something only Michael Bay could fully appreciate.
Akin to something from a bad Broadway rock musical, Michele overacts her way through the video, backed by her own overwrought vocals, verses and chorus merging into one dense morass of pop miscalculation. The basic message is this: I’m lonely inside, but I’m going to get out there once I light this fuse and live my life, today … today … today …” Michele repeats words and phrases as though beating us with a blunt rhetorical instrument will make us like this song even in the slightest.
I in turn will start living today, and my first step will be vowing never to play this song again. If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, you can press play on the video below and then make the same vow never to do so again. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!
From a pure pop standpoint, Kat Dahlia’s new single “The High” is both invigorating and unabashedly ear-catching. The video she’s crafted for the song, a five-minute intense look at a violent relationship come to a brutal conclusion, is as visually arresting as the song is undeniably a hit in the making.
The single, off the 22-year-old’s latest mix-tape Seeds, is one of those graphic and brutally honest videos you have to see to believe. Even when the video at times seems on the verge of falling into Twilight territory, the song remains there in all its intense, stutter-pop glory to keep drawing you in.
“You say you’re gonna love me better,” she sings mournfully, but there’s no glossing over it. “But for now and for forever it’s a lie.” This is love in vain, even when it does make for visually and aurally invigorating art. The underlying pain of her experience is brutally evident. Consider this 2014’s first monster hit in the making and a must-hear.
Quietly putting Oklahoma City on the hip-hop map, Jabee’s “Dreams,” at the heart and soul of his album Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt, which is an example of meaningful hip-hop at its zenith. Chuck D of Public Enemy can already be counted as a supporter, suggesting that Jabee’s subtle thoughtful hip-hop has the distinct potential to change the world. “Dreams” in particular focuses on the dreams we all share, big and small, and the ability we have to overcome circumstances to ensure they become realized, not deferred or deterred. Give this one a listen, I think you’ll agree this is a message worth sharing.
For those among us who appreciate the incendiary goodness of an electric guitar soloist fully unleashed, what Eddie Brnabic does with his album Subtle Realms is positively buzzworthy, particularly on “Transcendental Wine,” an intense throwdown which illustrates his ability to trip with ease between full-throttle rock and raw oozing funk. This is instrumental music built custom for the headphone treatment, and it’s worth every effort to listen to while avoiding all other distractions. Keep an ear toward this kid — you’ll hear much more from him when this album takes off. You can stream the entire album via his Bandcamp page.
With the pop kick of Rilo Kiley coupled with the hooks of Kasey Musgraves and Lindi Ortega,l Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons hit like a full-on tropical wave with Hey Kid and lead single “Hurricane.” This is the music you should play to friends who say there’s nothing country music can offer, while also bolstering the hooks which could fuel pop-country radio if they focused on musicians with the chops to play to classic and modern influences. Clearly these tracks showcase an artist who’s at home as a cultural observer:
Growing up in small town Ohio, Perley spent years as an observant wallflower engrossing herself in poetry, literature, people, and films. “I am a storyteller at heart, always have been. I get a lot of inspiration from relationships, surroundings, poetry, and old movies. Music for me is a way to express feelings I can’t get out any other way, and when I hit the stage with the band I can turn up and let go.”
The album officially comes out January 21st, and features more than just the single, including “Athens” and “George Stone” which help front-load the listening experience with material worthy of consistent repetition. But “Hurricane” definitely sums up the band’s sound, giving the “something real” she seems to honestly feel straight down to the bone. “You and I you know we are the same,” she howls early in the proceedings as crunchy lead guitar and thundering percussion provide a backdrop as intense as the storm in her heart. The chorus of “whoah whoahs” and stacatto “ha”s further showcases the Rilo Kiley influence, reiterating just how much of an earworm this song is.
Check it out below and then visit the band’s official website to ensure you get your copy the day of release. This isn’t an album you’ll want to miss, as these Howlin’ Moons are ones you’ll want to revel beneath well into 2014.
Si, soy un perdedor, but I’m loving how much fun Slippertails are making out of my eternal nostalgia for early-90s alt-sludge.
These New Jersey-ites have soaked in everything that made Beck’s Mellow Gold and Nirvana’s Bleach so mind-bendingly addictive and they’ve put it through a punk-rock blender, creating a photocopy of their own “Garden State of Mind.” However you look at it, songs like “Hip New Jerk” require one to immediately forego the headphone treatment, instead blasting these sludgy, instantly deep-grooving tracks to the masses, demanding they pay attention.
You can stream the entire album now on the band’s Bandcamp page, and you should do so quickly, for There’s A Disturbing Trend serves to showcase just how good modern alternative music can be when you forget about trends altogether and simply rock. Now that’s a novel idea!
Press play on this one by Southside Chicago rapper Chi City and let the incredible beat reel you in. One listen and I’m ready to share with the world, while blasting the chorus to everyone in earshot: “Hell yeah, fuck ya life!” Though hard-edged, the message is clear. You want riches, fame and respect? Work like a dog for it, put in the time and then maybe you’ll hit on something that sticks. Until then, don’t expect Chi City to cry any tears for you. The track’s got all the hooks needed to worm its way into any hip-hop playlist and stay there. Can’t wait to hear what else these guys come up with in the new year.
Great name for chicks
I know a jealous sapphire
And an amethyst
And if she’s a square
I can work with her
But I prefer my joints to be circular
This one’s not to be taken too seriously, but damned if it won’t stick in your head, the ultimate pop-hop throwback. All you need’s a phat beat, some shiny beads, plenty of Snoop Dogg-sized blunts and you’re ready for what Chris Clarke brings to the table. “Every time you see me I got some fresh-assed clothes and some beads. And some weed,” he raps early on, before seriously breaking it all down for us: “I got rare beads, prayer beads, square beads and player beads.”
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Australian hip-hopper Dialekt has a lot going for him, particularly on his solid single “Fortress.” First off there’s the hook, which echoes but doesn’t carbon-copy the piano-tinged flair of “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna. Then there’s the chorus, sung ably by Xy Latu, which is as memorable as anything you’ll hear from Mikky Ekko or Gotye, a perfect ear-worm which does as much to demand repeat plays as does Dialekt’s rapping. That’s the clincher, though, is that this kid has serious flow. At first I wasn’t convinced — the first verse sounded a bit too much like B.o.B.’s work on “Airplanes” — but when he really gets going during the second verse, it is immediately clear there’s more here in the vein of Macklemore than anything else in pop-versed hip-hop.
No guarantee he’ll hook our ears with anything else, but “Fortress” is a solid first swing toward the fences. I could hear this song getting plenty of top 40 radio-play, and the video’s professionally produced, with a distinctive look. Start it at the two-minute mark if you’re not interested in the pseudo-story presented by the video, which in the end is just a chance to get Dialekt to light a few giant flares and let a helicopter spread color around him as he raps. What matters is that the quality of the song speaks for itself. This is everything pop programmers salivate over. Will it be enough to break Dialekt here in America? I’m going to bet yes.
ALL YOU EVER DID WAS WRECK ME: Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” as an examination of teenage hypersexuality
So, in the wake of the VMAs and Miley Cyrus’s unfortunate Twitter-bait bomb which was Twerking It 2013, you think she’s undeserving of any pop respect. And on first glance the video for “Wrecking Ball” stands to reiterate that. But give it a second look / listen. What, I have to wonder, is wrong with a teen sensation growing up and taking creative and artistic risks, even if it means perhaps alienating her from today’s crop of tween pop followers? Bear in mind Cyrus came to instant fame years ago and has aged alongside her audience — is there not room for a young woman to make her own moves in a male-dominated industry?
Here Miley pushes to take control of her own body, claiming her sexuality as her own as a backdrop to a song which, lyrically, crushes her beneath the memories of a relationship left in ruin. And while you may object to the video’s seemingly casual nudity and the often awkward sexual juxtapositions as Miley sings of taking to love like a wrecking ball only to be wrecked by the very love she so desires, bear in mind — she doesn’t owe you anything. Beyond giving pop fans a hook-filled melody, which this song does repeatedly and with gusto, her job as an artist in this pop era is to produce hits. And “Wrecking Ball” is a hit to anyone with ears. Whether her personal life is a mess, or her decisions as a young woman violate your personal sense of “shame,” I say resoundingly: “So what?” In that case she’s probably not singing this song in your direction anyway.
All that should and does matter is the song itself. Imagine getting this single sent to your inbox without a name attached, without the baggage of the video, and listen. Better yet, load the video and then turn your screen off, then press play.
Walk around the room and listen to that plaintive opening verse, a hook unto itself. Then the chorus hits, taking the song from plaintive pop to full-on anthem. “I came in like a wrecking ball / I never hit so hard in love / all I wanted was to break your walls / all you ever did was wre-eh-ehck me! You wre-eh-ehck me!” This is everything Lady Gaga still wishes she could put out there, every inch of what Katy Perry’s “Roar” can’t reach.
Love really is war, and when you lose you spend so much wasted time blaming yourself for the failings, to the point of self-destruction. That’s where the twisted sexual imagery of the video comes to bear. Yes it’s disjointed, creepy, desperate and disturbing, but it’s a view into what many of our young teenage women grow up thinking they have to do to win in love. Robin Thicke can put out a song like “Blurred Lines” which all but endorses the “I can treat you like an object because deep down you really like it” mentality, and yet we publicly scorn only the women who take part in the video, not the men who take credit for the song itself. Miley is a slut for twerking it onstage while Robin Thick plays the role of R&B referree.
And when our sisters, our daughters, fall in love and have their hearts broken, they’re left reeling, wondering what they didn’t do that could have kept the man in their life from wrecking them. Far from glorifying young women and open sexuality, as the Guardian obliquely opines, the video implies the opposite. The whole world tells me I should be this way, how could I be the only one who’s wrong?
I never meant to start a war
I just wanted you to let me in
And instead of using force
I guess I should have let you win
What message do we send when we trash the messenger — in this case an overly sexualized music video — when the message within is that in a world where everything’s hyper-sexualized, it’s okay coming from a man but when a woman claims even a touch of that sexual power, it’s off limits? I’m sure Miley Cyrus isn’t worried too deeply about this debate as she pushes “Wrecking Ball” toward what’s almost certain to be mega-hit status. But while she didn’t write the song, she uses the video to hint at the pain and hurt which lies below both the lyrics and the nudity in her video.
All of which warrants a second listen if you’ve chosen already to write the song off as meaningless … or worse, mere filth.
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AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Dotted Line”
(f. Double B / Nathalie Elam)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Put On Blocks”
(f. Nathalie Elam / Andrew White / Nicatine of Free Whiskey)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Supersonic Love”
(f. Nathalie Elam)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Last Call”
(f. Nicatine of Free Whiskey)
From the land of the mighty Pacific Northwest comes the rumbling of a burgeoning hip hop community, that is uniting all things hip hop. Graffiti, Djing, B-Boying, Emceeing and a growing battle rap scene.
Brazilian singer / cellist Dom La Nina’s “Sambinha” brings out the smiles, requires further review of debut Ela
If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face when you wake yourself up this morning, I don’t think anything will.
Over a plucked cello melody and guitar backdrop, the talented young songwriter lays down a layer of sweetly catchy vocals, creating one of those to-the-point singles bands like Sergio Mendez and Brasil 66 used to put out back when this music had its brief heyday in America.
It’s a song worth checking out, and it makes me want to dig deeper into her debut LP Ela, out since January on the Six Degrees label. Some have likened this sound to what Cat Power might manage if produced by the likes of Brian Wilson. I’ll leave the comparisons up to you, because I only have half an hour before work and I need to hear the song at least five more times first.
Dom has been featured on WNYC’s Soundcheck Blog, KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, and NPR’s Weekend Edition and Studio 360. She made her US performance debut at the Make Music Pasadena festival and Hotel Cafe last weekend in Los Angeles, and returns to North America in early July, including a New York City date at Joe’s Pub. Hopefully she’ll do well and they’ll announce more dates for those of us stuck in the midwest. Until then, the recordings will have to suffice.
For the old-school fan of classic rock who isn’t afraid to mix plenty of Humble Pie and Jeff Beck into their listening schedule, Blades of Grass by Dirty Streets should be an album on your immediate listening list when it hits shelves on July 9th. Until then, get your fix with a few repeats of “Stay Thirsty” to keep your pump primed, a track which the Memphis-by-way-of-Mississippi power trio recorded at the legendary Ardent Studio with production help from sound engineer Adam Hill, with added power provided by Lucero’s Rick Steff on keyboards. With two full-lengths already to their name along with an extensive touring history, expect big things from these guys in the coming months. To learn more, check them out on Facebook!
Doing all she can to show us pop love, Naia Kete’s “Crazy Glue” sticks to the skull like the best ear candy
Back in October we premiered the single “Cherry Love” by Natania Lalwani. If you fell instantly in love with that slice of perfect pop candy, you’ll be just as enamored with what Naia Kete offers on her latest single “Crazy Glue,” which fits right into that vein of enthusiastic addictive surrender to the art of love. She gets positively high over the touch of a hand and vows to stick to her lover like glue, melding the message via sing-song vocals to a backdrop of guitars, pianos and light percussion, crafting a generous singable hook which is the perfect complement to the endlessly repeatable “Cherry Love.”
Kete, who now lives in LA, was a contestant on The Voice‘s second season and is set to play the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee this June, at which point she’ll release her third EP, followed by an appearance at Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco this August. If the material on the new EP continues in the vein of “Crazy Glue,” expect the hooks to bounce around the confines of your skull like the best summer songs pop music has to offer.
“These Diamonds In Our Hands” — Cris Cab’s “When We Were Young” melds Dave Matthews, Rob Thomas for robust single
This single by Miami-based singer-songwriter Cris Cab caught me by surprise this afternoon, a refreshing blend of Dave Matthews instrumentation with vocals which blend echoes of Rob Thomas with hints of reggae in the hook. The overall backdrop, when played on repeat, keeps drawing me back to Paul Simon’s Graceland, particularly when the horns come in strong at the 2:35 mark. This is a sunshine-soaked pop hit-in-the-making which should easily warrant proper headphone treatment followed by a proper blasting from your car’s speakers as you cruise down the highway.
If you dig the single as much as I have, check out his Red Road mix-tape, which arrives ahead of Cab’s upcoming debut album due this fall. The mix features collaborations with Hip Hop artists Mike Posner and Wyclef Jean, and can be streamed via SoundCloud.