With songs that cross paths with Flobots, Chris Merritt and the poppier moments of Chris Thile’s solo work at equal measure, I have to call out Sean Fournier for being among my favorite pop discoveries. “Break My Heart” is a perfect example of his Flobots-oriented bent, the Connecticut songwriter bringing all the hooks great pop music demands while layering in dense lyrics Jason Mraz would appreciate. Having heard most of his last two albums via his page on Tradiio, I can say this song is just an example of what he can do. “Broken-Heart Red” fits in with the best of Chris Merritt’s synth-based originals, and “Origami” brings the two influences together even when it relies on lyrics flirting with cliche (“all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put you together again”). He’s been recording for most of the last decade, touring colleges and honing his craft. His latest, Brace Yourself, is available on iTunes.

I REALLY (REALLY) WANT YOU TO LIKE ME: Carly Rae Jepsen returns with earbender “I Really Like You”

If you thought Carly Rae Jepsen had her only moment in the spotlight with “Call Me Maybe,” you may want to give her latest a listen. The blisteringly catchy “I Really Like You” was co-written by Peter Svensson, who wrote “Lovefool” with his band the Cardigans, and Jepsen really captures that pop sound that crosses the boundaries of 80s and early 90s. “Lyrically, it’s about that time in a relationship when it’s too soon to say ‘I love you,’ but you’re well past, ‘I like you’ and you’re at the ‘I really, really like you’ stage,” Jepsen says of the song, which really really really really really really wants you to sing along by the time she gets to the chorus. I know you don’t think it is cool to fall hook, line and sinker for a song like this, but get out of your head and go full Taylor Swift on this one. I really really think you’ll be happy with the decision, at least until radio gets hold of the song and plays it into oblivion. And they will.

Kat Dahlia announces album release date, “Mash It Up” collab with Black Lion & the Wizard

I have written extensively about how great Kat Dahlia is. In two months the whole world will know, as the genre-bending performer will release her debut album My Garden on January 13, 2015 after more than a year of health-related delays. Though she’s spent much of this year dealing with the all-too-real risk that she might never sing again, the delay seems to have not affected her work ethic and willingness to put herself out there and let the music speak volumes. Not one to rest on her laurels, Dahlia hit the ground running this month with a slate of tour dates and a collaboration with Black Lion & The Wizard which premiered in The FADER. That track in particular showcases how broad an appeal she has, as her first trip to Jamaica turns into yet another earworm of the highest order:

“It was my first time visiting Jamaica for the shooting of the video, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” says Dahlia. “The people, the food, the energy and the dances were insane! The energy in Jamaica and in Jamaican music is like nowhere else in the world, and I’m just glad I got to be a part of the record with these guys.”

If you haven’t had the chance to hear our podcast interview with Dahlia from last January, check it out here. Then give her video for “Crazy” a view below, along with the list of upcoming tour dates.

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#MyGarden Tour Dates:

11/14     New York, NY                     Studio at Webster Hall
11/16     Baltimore, MD                   Sound Stage Baltimore
11/18     Boston, MA                        Brighton Music Hall
11/19     Hamden, CT                       The Outer Space
11/21     Buffalo, NY                        The Waiting Room
11/23     Philadelphia, PA                The Hollow
11/26     Chicago, IL                         The Portage Theater
11/28     Charlotte, NC                     The Chop Shop
11/29     Louisville, KY                      Zanzabar
11/30     Atlanta, GA                        Masquerade
12/2       New Orleans, LA                House of Blues
12/4       McAllen, TX                        Tri Bar
12/9       San Francisco, CA               Slim’s
12/10     Santa Cruz, CA                    The Catalyst
12/11     Los Angeles, CA                  Los Globos
12/12     Phoenix, AZ                         Monarch Theatre

To learn more about KAT DAHLIA, please visit:

Official Website:


In a strange paradox, I’ve found myself falling for a band called Hear, Hear while running my music site called Hear! Hear! Music. But don’t let this confuse you. It doesn’t take much time listening to this Nashville band to realize they’re on to something. Kate Puckett and Matt Lloyd, two songwriters whose musical journeys led them from Pittsburgh and Indianapolis to the musical mecca of Nashville, front this energetic hybrid of pop-rock and modern country-tinged vocals. There’s plenty to love here, from Puckett and Lloyd’s Little Big Town-esque vocals to the strong hook of the full-on rock backdrop, heavy on melodic guitars and a rhythm section which sounds stadium ready. “Take You In” won’t have 800 YouTube views for long, that’s for damned sure!

ELROY WAS HERE: Cruise Elroy’s gauntlet-dropping EP pair leads the pack

For Chris Merritt, Cruise Elroy has been a labor of love years in the works, built on the solid foundation that was the song of the same title, a seven-four exercise in pop-jazz perfection. Daring continuously to push the envelope of what great pop music can and should be, he’s existed on the fringes of pop, building melodies of the Ben Folds ilk while taking his lyrics in the vein of a less snarky Jonathan Coulton. There’s always been more to Merritt’s music than easy comparisons may make clear, but it’s a good start. Now with the arrival of EP1 and EP2 from Cruise Elroy, the full spectrum of this sound is immediately evident.

While the first EP takes the opportunity to update early Merritt faves “Tarmac”, “Feminine Mind” and “Rain King” via a cleaner studio veneer, it also provides us with the songwriter’s strongest pop contribution yet. Via “The Fever,” which speaks to the search for truth between what we can see, smell or touch versus what we sense might be true on the fringes, Merritt hits us with his catchiest chorus while peppering the musical arrangement with his trademark odes to video-game music and off-kilter kitsch. Shorty” opens the EP with an extended 5/4 disco-funk breakdown, then segues into a surprisingly straightforward dose of keyboard-tinged nostalgia complete with the best fuzzed-out bass outside an early Ben Folds Five effort. And even the new studio recordings of Merritt classics shine as examples of remarkably astute songwriting, particularly “Feminine Mind” for it’s twist on Billy Joel’s “She’s Only A Woman To Me” — “She’s a killer but she’s always on time; she’s brutal but she’s never unkind,” Merritt sings without the dark edge of Joel’s misogyny tainting the proceeding. And “Rain King” softens the edges of the lo-fi gem via a pair of extended instrumental interludes at the song’s center and conclusion while heightening the contrast between the bare melody with the trio’s deftly layered vocal harmonies.

But if
EP1 introduces you to the sounds of Merritt and Cruise Elroy in a non-confrontational setting, EP2 becomes positively revolutionary, evident from the moment you crash ears-first into “Sisyphus.” Thirty seconds in and you’ve thrown out any comparisons to Ben Folds as the band embraces prog-rock leanings much more in tune with bands like Wax Fang. Quite unlike anything else I’ve heard on any pop album this year, “Sisyphus” takes everything that’s great about Merritt’s songwriting and encapsulates it within a melodic structure that demands a schizophrenic arrangement. All but demanding headphone listening, the song features layers upon layers which, peeled back, illustrate an artist coming fully into his own. And four minutes in, the Chris Martin-inspired harmonic breakdown seals it, making repeat listens compulsory.

And if you weren’t already sold, the EP’s closer, “Ghost,” which opens with the best rock intro not composed by Styx, will cement you as a lifelong fan. A freewheeling pop masterpiece, Ghost reminds one immediately of the more experimental side of Weezer (“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived”), a symphonic synthesized sensation which aptly showcases why I’ve argued for years that Merritt is the best pop songwriter you’re not yet listening to.

These two EPs make it tantalizingly clear that great pop music won’t be denied. With the tease of a full-length still on the horizon, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the sonic world of Cruise Elroy. Nothing else this year comes even remotely close to this, and you ignore it at your own peril.

Elroy was here, and he’s thrown down the gauntlet.

FEATURED SONG: Nikki Lerner – “Plea”

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.