Out of the many, many things there are to like about alt-J, my favorite may be that they don’t sound like any other band I can name. They produce songs that are both catchy and musically creative, all the while being utterly original.
This song is the second single from their upcoming third album, RELAXER, now set for release on June 2. The first two singles are so solid, the release date has been pushed up a week — and deservedly so. This song has a killer chorus that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I first heard it and I love how it grows in sound when the chorus gets repeated. Throw in an intense horn section and key change at the end and I’m hooked.
I just had my mind blown when I realized that Spoon’s debut album was released when I was four years old. I started listening to them in high school as ‘The Underdog’, an instant classic, was inescapable at the time. Since then, they’ve released eight more albums, including their most recent, Hot Thoughts.
Spoon songs have always been sing-alongs, filled with punchy guitar riffs and percussion, but have pretty much stayed under the indie pop umbrella. With Hot Thoughts, they tiptoe into electronica and even disco. The title track above opens with echoing synths that begin to weave organically with the percussion and guitar lines. This album has a solid groove to it that I caught only faintly in the past from the band and I’m loving it.
First thing’s first: Jillian Hervey, lead singer of the NYC music duo Lion Babe, has the most amazing hair you will ever see. I always thought I had thick hair, but this is another level. It’s no wonder the daughter of Vanessa Williams is a Pantene ambassador.
Now that that’s out of the way, Lion Babe makes genre-crossing, soulful, vintage-influenced music. Despite moving from smooth R&B (see ‘Treat Me Like Fire’) to neo-disco (‘Where Do We Go;) to soul with a hip-hop influence on the above track, ‘Jump Hi’, every different genre has the same uplifting force pulsing behind it…and this is all on their first album. I love that most of their music videos are shot in and around NYC as well, as their music is just as eclectic as the city itself.
Up on the Spotify playlist now!
Much has been said about Maggie Rogers. The 22-year-old is largely known for moving Pharrell to tears when she played him a demo of the above song, ‘Alaska’, during a masterclass at NYU. Since then, she’s graduated, gotten a record deal, made her TV debut on The Tonight Show, and gone on tour (including her most recent performance at SXSW). Her viral and almost mythical big break may have made her special, but it’s not what will make her great.
Listening to ‘Alaska’ while I write this, I’ve stopped maybe three times because the song is so distractingly good. Listening to it in your headphones makes it even better, paying attention to all the completely unique layers of sound going on. One of the biggest complaints about modern synth music is that it’s inorganic. Rogers deftly bridges this divide between nature and the synthetic, mixing samples she recorded out in the wild with a pulsating beat and layering her gossamer falsettos and harmonies over everything.
Reflecting on a past relationship during a hike she took while taking a break from making music, Rogers sings, “I walked off you/And I walked off an old me”. As Amanda Petrusich explains: “first you relinquish the thing you loved, then you relinquish the part of yourself that loved it.” I’ve replayed this song over and over and I swear every time I probably make the same awed, emotional face Pharrell makes in that video that’s now been seen by over 2 million people. And if I don’t, I definitely feel it. Every time.
A couple of months ago I was reading a few different lists of the “best songs of 2016” and I have to be honest, outside of the list on Rolling Stone, I was not familiar with many of the songs at all. This song by Angel Olsen was featured on one of the lists I read and I can’t believe I had never heard it before because it’s my ideal mix of lo-fi fi grunge and indie pop. I want more when the track is over, which is something I feel after all of my favorite songs.
Confession time. I just heard this song on my favorite guilty pleasure TV show, Shadowhunters. Over the years, the biggest influence on my taste in music absolutely has to be the TV shows that I’ve watched (thanks Gossip Girl!). There are so many bands that I may have never heard of if I hadn’t heard their music on one of my favorite shows
I wish I could remember how I first came across Surfer Blood because that moment must have been magical. All I know is that the song ‘Floating Vibes’ was the first song I ever heard by them and it remains one of my favorite songs to this day.
The first time I ever heard a Phantogram song was at a Phantogram show.
I was at Lollapalooza with my best friend, who was already a big fan and wanted to see them. Their singer, Sarah Barthel, was dressed in all black despite the ninety degree heat and sported a jet black bob with blunt bangs. Their songs had a huge, heavy beat with airy vocals and catchy hooks. I instantly loved them.
This is the first single from their new album, Three, due out September 16th. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album and I’ll definitely be seeing them when they come to New York in October.