No one does pop better than The Bird & the Bee. Inara George and co. make a very welcome return with the July 17th release of their new album, Recreational Love. You can stream the entire album via Spotify below.
“Young and Dumb” opens the album with The Bird & the Bee’s unmistakablly signature, insanely catchy indie-pop sound with a nice piano flourish at the end.
“Doctor” is a clever satire on our modern pill-popping culture with the refrain “Doctor give me pills or give me love.” The B&B take their cybered 80s nostalgia to a new level with some E Street sax embellishments.
The Office Spacesque video for “Will You Dance?” (see below) features comedian Patton Oswald and The Big Bang Theory‘s Simon Helberg.
The moody undercurrent of “We’re Coming to You” makes it the standout track.
Recreational Love ends with the lovely lullaby “Lovey Dovey.”
Florence + the Machine’s third studio release, How Big How Blue How Beautiful is possibly the most aptly titled album ever with its big, brassy orchestral sound, beautiful vocals and wistful, poetic lyrics.
I am teaching myself how to be free.
Lungs and Ceremonials are among my all-time favorite albums and this new collection is a very worthy followup. I purchased the Target version of the album (yes a physical CD in a brick and mortar store!), which contains two exclusive additional tracks plus the Deluxe Edition’s four bonus tracks for a total of eighteen new Florence songs.
How Big How Blue How Beautiful bursts open with the singles “Ship to Wreck” and “What Kind of Man” before sliding into the gorgeously symphonic title track.
Standout tracks “Queen of Peace” and “Various Storms & Saints” recall the exquisite, operatic pop drama of Ceremonials before “Delilah” dances in.
The demo “Which Witch” is such a dazzling, intricately constructed piece of wonderment, it boggles my mind that it’s only a bonus track. It’s unfathomable that a song this good was not considered worthy of inclusion on the final album tracklist. Whether you purhase the Deluxe Edition as a whole or the individual mp3, you need to hear “Which Witch.”
The two Target bonus tracks are lovely, especially the finale “Conductor.” The song uses a symphony metaphor for a turbulent relationship and ends with the line “I am the orchestra, the conductor too. My heart is a concert hall and I filled it with you.”
With three magnificent albums under her belt, Florence Welch and her machine have cemented their place as my favorite modern band.
Recorded live in a log-cabin in the Canadian wilderness during a cross-country journey, Allison Crowe’s new album, Sylvan Hour, may be her best yet. The private, one-hour performance at a friend’s home in 2006 includes raw, solo takes of songs that would be re-recorded in group sessions for This Little Bird. The recording was lost for nearly a decade and was rediscovered this winter. What a find it was! Allison’s extraordinary voice is in its purest state accompanied only by guitar and piano.
From the opening cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Darling, Be Home Soon” to originals like “Effortless” and the fierce rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” Allison’s vocal prowess and control is on astonishing display.
Among the album’s many standout tracks are “Phoenix,” “These Words” and “Skeletons & Spirits.” These “stripped down” versions are even more powerful and clear than their This Little Bird counterparts.
Allison’s supernaturally agile and exquisite voice is especially stunning, even shocking, as she bends and stretches every note in the haunting, truly chill-producing ballad “Silence.” You can stream and download a free, legal mp3 of the song via the Soundcloud widget below.
The music seems to rise from deep with her chest, sometimes ripping out of her throat in full roar, other times being restrained and shaped with the skill of a master sculptor. Sylvan Hour is truly a masterpiece.
Elle King’s Love Stuff is competing with Brandi Carlile’s The Firewatcher’s Daughter as my favorite album of 2015 so far. Elle’s music has garnered much deserved high praise and somewhat accurate comparisons to The Black Keys, though I’d also throw in references to Jack White, Imelda May, Joan Jett, Maria Muldaur and the outlaw country era. In other words, Elle King’s genre-bending blend of blues, country, folk and rock really can’t be compared to any other single artist. Elle truly stands in a class of her own.
“Where The Devil Don’t Go,” “Ex’s & Oh’s” and “Last Damn Night” are fierce Delta blues-rock wailers, while “Under the Influence” adds a trippy pop rhythm to the mix.
“Kocaine Karolina” falls into a lovely, gentle banjo melody before handclap percussion picks up the tempo again in “Song of Sorrow.”
“America’s Sweetheart” is a tough chick anthem with shades of Mumford in the arrangement forming a folk-pop revival bridge between country and rock.
“Not Gonna Drown” is a slinky slice of Western noir.
It’s here! And it’s magnificent! Brandi Carlile’s fifth studio album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, was just released via ATO Records and it sure is somethin’ else. Recorded almost entirely as first takes without any demoing and little rehearsal, The Firewatcher’s Daughter is an unparalleled display of musical brillance.
We throw around the word “wail” so easily when it comes to big voices, but Brandi’s wail is a true, heart-in-throat keen so full of emotion it sounds on the verge of breaking yet so strong it deftly bends every note to her whim. And her longtime collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth (a.k.a. “The Twins.”) are with her every glorious step of the way.
“Wherever is Your Heart,” “Beginning to Feel the Years,” “Wilder (We’re Chained)” and the string-accented “I Belong to You” are the kind of beautiful ballads that would tug heartstrings no matter who sang them, but Brandi’s supernatural voice lifts them up to a celestial realm.
The album’s first single, “The Eye,” finds Brandi reigning in her extraordinarily big voice for gentler, sun-drenched, pop-folk harmonies.
“Things I Regret” is a deceptively uptempo, high energy road song that quickly builds, gaining momentum like a steam engine til the roaring finale.
Then “Mainstream Kid” throws a quaking, blues-rock stick of absolute dynamite on the tracks and blows the whole thing to hell. This woman can make Hendrix, Skynyrd, Ram Jam and Nirvana sound like soft jazz!
“Alibi” stays at full throttle rock level, but there’s an unexpected, subtle undercurrent of summery, California pop to the chorus melody that gives it a catchy and slightly disorienting swirl.
“The Stranger at My Door” is an intoxicating, mesmeric gulp of noir, a phantasmagoric masterpiece that bends the mind as much it does genre…like Johnny Cash fronting Led Zeppelin in a David Lynch movie then Trans-Siberian Orchetra jumps on stage to close with a freakin’ rock riff of “When Johnny Comes Marchin’ Home Again!” It is one of the greatest, most deliciously unusual songs ever constructed. Wow, just wow.
The album closes with a fitting cover of The Avett Brothers’ “Murder in the City.”
There is truly no one like Brandi Carlile at her fierce, brilliant best. She’s somehow simultaneously the heir to The Beatles, Janis Joplin and The Man in Black. I’ll be shocked if The Firewatcher’s Daughter isn’t my #1 album come December.