May 21, 2013
Pop-punk’s pulse beat strong in the mid- to late ’90s, but somewhere around the turn of the century, it seemed to trickle out. That’s not to say it disappeared, but the sound in general grew stale, as new styles of rock (often borrowing from old styles) emerged in the forefront. With Allison Weiss‘ new album, Say What You Mean, that brand sounds fresh again. Weiss doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table, but something about her interpretation of the genre brought it back to life in my ears. Her solid power chords, classic yet stimulating, and vocals that convey emotion as much as the lyrics themselves probably have a lot to do with it.
Music can be so powerful when its effect on you is not only visceral, but emotional. I think that’s where Weiss won me over with this release, because her heartbreak is so relatable — as heartbreak is wont to be, I suppose. She covers a decent range of scenarios that can come from a rough break-up, using varied levels of sass to drive her point throughout the album.
Say What You Mean opens with “Making It Up,” a relatively light, poppy tune, implementing a bit of synth atop the basic guitar/bass/drums set-up. The song pleads to an ex-lover who’s acting like whatever they had together never happened: “Am I making it up? Was it not what you said? Was I never the one? Was it all in my head?” This juxtaposition of cheerful melody to despondent lyrics is always a satisfying angle, because instead of burying the listener in sad feelings, it uplifts them.
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May 16, 2013
Break out your dancin’ shoes, because !!! is gonna make you wanna move with their new album, Thr!!!er. Nic Offer blends pop music styles like a boss, and it’s all founded on sumptuous bass rhythms that make it tough to sit still. It’s all so obvious in the new music video for “One Girl / One Boy.” Offer dances around in his super-sweet short-shorts while singing about how a song keeps him connected to a former love.
No amount of heartbreak can really separate us from our musical memories of dancing with someone we once loved, and Offer’s plea is that it may not matter anymore, but when that song plays, he can’t help but feel like he’s in that place again, when things were good. Because let’s face it, nothing is bad when you’re dancing. All your troubles dissipate on the dance floor like droplets of water burning off a hot skillet (that’s how I learned to know my pan was ready for pancake batter, anyone else?). The awesome Sonia Moore provides guest vocals on this tune, and I can’t help but be a little jealous that she gets to groove with this fresh gent, because that guy looks like a choice dance partner. And seriously, more dudes need to wear short-shorts. Ain’t nothing wrong with showing a little leg, fellas!
May 9, 2013
Pop culture aficionado and singer-songwriter Allie Goertz released her debut full-length album this week. Cossbysweater is a fan-funded collection of send-ups to “Freaks and Geeks,” “The Simpsons,” “Arrested Development,” Dungeons & Dragons and other geek faves. Goertz’s new music video for “Stagnant’s Fine” seems to stand apart from the rest, seemingly without any blatant pop culture references. Just a nonchalant song about being stuck in place and apathetic. Most of Goertz’s songs are presented beneath a sheer shroud of melancholy, with “Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse” serving as a candid look at the blue-haired character’s pathos, or “Tonight” emphasizing a D&D campaign as an escape from the drudgery of real life. And I’m okay with that, because it’s a strangely beautiful and unexpected perspective.
December 24, 2012
Making a best-of list at the end of every year is both a fun and frustrating endeavor. Fun because it’s my one last swing at promoting some of my favorite music, music many people may not even have heard of. Frustrating because I know there’s a lot I haven’t heard that could very well belong on my list. My wish lists are full of albums I just simply haven’t had the opportunity to buy yet; as it is, I already spend more money on music than I should. And what I buy at any given time relies simply on that moment’s whims.
So some things that may be just as deserving of a place on this list end up left off, and as someone with great passion for music, it does hurt me a little that I don’t have the opportunity to represent everything great, or even just good, because, like my wallet, year-end lists have limits. One thing I can say for sure, however, is that everything I have managed to include on this list I hold in the highest regard and hope you can take a chance to hear. They are the albums from which I derived the most enjoyment this year. It won’t be like what you see in the major publications. For the most part, these are releases that you probably haven’t heard, so this list is an opportunity to discover a lot of new music that you won’t be able to find on other lists. And that’s precisely why I keep doing this year after year. (P.S. These are only loosely in order.)
1. Mia Pharaoh by Miniature Tigers
Nothing has delighted me quite as thoroughly this year as Miniature Tigers’ third full-length album, Mia Pharaoh. The band’s pop sensibilities have always been strong but they’ve taken a significantly synthy turn on their latest, with sexually suggestive overtones in the lyrics (“Flower Door”) and special appearances by some slow jam beats (“Cleopatra”). Jeremy Malvin, aka Chrome Sparks, contributed some of his expertise on this album, which turns out to be a very smart pairing with Charlie Brand’s style of musical preciousness.
2. Blonde Album by Lightning Love
After a few years of waiting, we finally got our wish of a sophomore release from Michigan’s golden-tressed trio and, boy, did they ever deliver. It’s always seemed like bandleader Leah Diehl can do no wrong in her music; every song she creates is just as perfect as can be, with melodies that are impossible not to sing along with and lyrics that are as self-aware as they are sassy. There’s much pain and much surrender in Diehl’s words, and whether she pairs them with punchy beats (“Awkward”) or sparse minor chords (“I’ll Never Love No One Else”), they resonate on a level so deep, you’ll think you’re feeling it all yourself.
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August 30, 2012
This November, just about one year after Bombadil released its third album, All That the Rain Promises, the band plans to release another. If this new song by Stuart Robinson is any indication, Bombadil’s fourth full-length, Metrics of Affection, will be rife with heavy emotions and striking grace. Robinson’s performance of “Bad Guys” is one of the most affecting things I’ve heard from him, notably midway through, from about 2:45 to 3:00, where he builds up to an anguished yell in the name of unrequited love. “Would you ever make a plan to be alone with me?” Robinson asks in the refrain, so insistent that just hearing it makes you feel the question right along with him.