MUSIC&web14 Nov 2017 02:06 pm

It’s November and that means the scales are tipping towards Christmas albums when it comes to new releases in music. ‘Tis been the season since mid-September, but I for one am not ready to commit to Christmas carols just yet, so we’ll try to dig out the “normal” music for as long as we can. This week, we find a teenage ukulele prodigy, a New Orleans bred vocalist and rapper on the come up, and a boy band? All that capped off by a dance track.

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Album 1: Just the Beginning, by Grace VanderWaal (11/3/17)
I doubt there are many people more skeptical than I when it comes to the long term implications of shedding a spotlight on young, talented performers. I don’t watch America’s Got Talent, so I didn’t witness the rise of Grace VanderWaal en route to winning the crown (or whatever they hand out), but she won and now, at the age of 13, she has a full on debut album to her credit. According to her bio, she began composing music at the age of 3 and she’s listed as the primary writer on all of the songs here. AND, in addition to singing, she also contributes instrumentation on many of the tracks. Here’s to holding out hope that we can celebrate a young talent without creating a twenty-something nightmare ten years from now.

The first track, MOONLIGHT, features the ukulele and not much else, setting the tone for an album that’s not typical. The vocals are airy and light, but they don’t lack substance. SICK OF BEING TOLD hints at the songwriter’s age with a slight sense of a tantrum – or at least stubbornness. I’m tired of being told what I should know or do or be. Could just be assertiveness. BURNED offers a more mature sound, nodding towards a classical style on a ballad. This whole album actually seems to deftly balance extremes. Maturity and immaturity. Lighthearted pop and weighty soul. Complicated instrumentation and a simple, efficient presentation.
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MUSIC&web08 Nov 2017 05:00 pm

This episode is scheduled to air on Halloween, so I was obviously tempted to lean towards spooky songs, a la Thriller or Nightmare on My Street (yep, I’m *THAT* old). I managed to suppress those urges and pull up a slate of new releases that run the gamut of styles, but my Tune Du Jour kind of represents the theme of the day. More on that later, but first let’s dive into the music.

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Album 1: Pacific Daydream, by Weezer (10/27/17)

Now that it’s fall, it’s getting closer to sweater weather and, to fans of 90s alt-pop-rock music, that obviously means it’s a good time to listen to Weezer. Of course, I’m referring to the group’s very first single, which is unbelievably approaching its 25th anniversary. Yikes! Okay, how has the past two decades treated Rivers Cuomo and his crew of mighty melodious misfits?

It begins with MEXICAN FENDER, which begins with a ramp up to a nice broken rhythm deftly defined by an electric guitar… maybe a Fender, from, Mexico? Well, this is a fun song, though. It has hallmarks of the 90s, but it still feels completely fresh. I am literally bobbing my head. BEACH BOYS continues the frolicking romp through the proverbial sands of Southern California beachfront property. At least that’s what I assume based on context clues. I’ve never been there. Nice driving, spy-like bassline to underscore the icing on this well-layered cake. Finally, it FEELS LIKE SUMMER – even though Autumn has taken hold. I have heard this song before. It was one of the singles from this album. There are some elements of hip hop here, but mostly, this is just a fun album already. Lots of great things going on here musically. “Spiritual, not religious”. Interesting. He sounds slightly like Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) on the bridge there.
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MUSIC&web30 Oct 2017 04:03 pm

I’m a little thin on show notes this week, but I’m pretty tired and short on time, so I just patched together what I could. These three mix things up nicely. I was really anticipating the first two and had never heard of the third. And that one ended up… well, just wait and see. Enjoy.

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Album 1: Faith Hope Love Repeat, by Brandon Heath (10/20/17)
I didn’t realize that this was as big of a release as it is – I mean, I like Brandon Heath and have since I first heard him give a showcase performance in Nashville many moons ago, but I never considered him to be much of a mainstream artist. Then he showed up in a PEOPLE magazine exclusively revealing the gender of his soon-to-arrive baby (spoiler alert: it’s a girl). Anyway, as I said, I like Brandon Heath, but his “noteworthy” songs are all from his first two albums (which are – I can’t believe this – about 10 years old). What has he done for me lately? Let’s see.

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT starts out with a nice syncopated beat accented by strings. It’s a nice pop tune. He makes no bones about his faith in the lyrics, but people may not even notice the first few times because the rhythm works so well. Track two is the lead single (I believe), WHOLE HEART. It has tamer production and a more robust chorus. Less risks, like the radio prefers. Little falsetto action, too. Nice. Wrapping it up, is I RUN, which I’ll assume includes a reference to Jonah somewhere, but we’ll see. Oh, no, the good type of running. I like that they cleared out the instruments to let Brandon just sing, but I’m not too fond of the little run up the scale as the hook. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing outstanding either.
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MUSIC&web24 Oct 2017 11:10 am

This is a good batch of music. These three albums each have something to offer and, even though I think the choice will be easy, I’m sure that I’ll spend a fair amount of time with each of these albums in the future. All three of the main selections exhibit intriguing combinations of styles in an effort to defy genres and express a nice bit of creativity.

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Album 1: Colors, by Beck (10/13/17)
Beck made waves back in the 90s with his surprise hit song, LOSER. Since then, he’s made his name as a bonafide artist exploring every corner music has to offer and walking the fine line between fresh new music and nostalgia. He’s a bit of a hoarder stylistically, in that his songs are so crowded with odds and ends. However, he manages to arrange all the pieces in such a way that there’s no doubt it all belongs. Digging into a Beck album often feels like unfolding origami.

We begin with the title track, COLORS, which features a throbbing bassline, a driving tempo, and a very full sound. This is like a combination of disco and pop and funk. It seems he never runs out of new elements to include and yet it’s all so very cohesive. SEVENTH HEAVEN begins a little lower key, but with the promise to swell into another spectacle. As we get to the chorus, it’s almost like stepping into a roadside convenience store with windchimes guarding the door. And the shelves are once again fully stocked with all the tchotchkes you could ever imagine. Our third song is called, I’M SO FREE, which offers a third palette of sound. There’s some 90s Alt-rock a la Smashing Pumpkins mixed with the driving electro-dance of BLUR, and eclecticism of a Radiohead all in one package. Not many artists can successfully make unlikely musical bedfellows sound so organic and natural. Quite an achievement.
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MUSIC&web17 Oct 2017 02:35 pm

Okay, this week, the new show is going on right this moment and I’m just now getting around to posting the show notes from last week. Just trying to continue to adjust my scheduling and stay on top of things. What’s that? Oh, okay, I need to go… enjoy the show notes from LAST week. This week’s notes should be up later this week.

Three of the artists/bands represented here today are completely new to me. This was a fun week of discovery, but unfortunately it also means that I don’t have much background info on any of them. But that’s never stopped me before. We’ll just dig into the music and see what shakes loose.

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Album 1: Lost in Translation, by New Politics (10/6/17)
The album opens up with what feels like an 8-bit video game soundtrack, before it starts building with additional musical components – including a nice driving rhythm, some intriguing tempo changes, and a solid guitar part. And halfway through CIA, there’s like an entirely different song going on. ONE OF US starts out almost like a Matthew West song, then kicks off with more of a fun. (the group not the emotion) sound. This is such an eclectic group. It’s a great mix of pop rock and orchestral experimentation. Piano in this one. So cool. Our third entry, TELL YOUR DAD features Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) and you can feel the influence immediately. However, it most definitely is not enough to derail their signature appeal as they’ve incorporated a lot of other elements to make the track their own.
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MUSIC&web10 Oct 2017 12:22 pm

Another week, another set of distractions, another busy schedule, another bit of change. Looks like the New Music Digest will be airing live on Tuesdays from now on, starting… TODAY. So this post with last week’s Show Notes may seem somewhat untimely, but at least I didn’t get “lapped” by the broadcast. (Close, but no cigar). Anyway, Episode 23 is all set to go – I’ll post those show notes sometime later this week – but first, here are the show notes from Episode 22, which earned the title, Wildermusic (pronounced however the mood strikes you). Enjoy – and perhaps we’ll see you in the live chat later today. (Sign up at Mixlr to get a notification of when they go live).

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Album 1: Mercury and Lightning, by John Mark McMillan (9/1/17)
John Mark McMillan wrote HOW HE LOVES, which became an extremely popular worship song after it was sanitized and covered by David Crowder*Band (CCM has its limitations on which types of kisses are allowed to be celebrated). This is his sixth album and it a worship project only in an atypical sense of the term.

Leading off with the title track, MERCURY & LIGHTNING could easily find a home on the alternative or even top 40 airwaves. There’s a thickness to the soundtrack, underscored by an organ, that exploits the magnetism of McMillan’s deeply rich vocals. There’s a lot going on in these songs and it’s all pretty spectacular. WILDERLOVE opens with an exposed vocal track that is simply captivating. When the music fills in around it, it’s just great. What else is there to say? If you’re looking for a comparison, you may find some similarities to Hozier. GODS OF AMERICAN SUCCESS will round out our three-song taste test and it’s a little more uptempo and has a different appeal altogether. Really nice album that may take a minute to grow on you.
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MUSIC&web29 Sep 2017 10:51 am

After much ado, the dust has finally settled over at the Studio DNA camp and we’re back with a fresh New Music Digest. The brief respite gave us a wealth of newly released albums to choose from, which makes it a little easier to bring a wider selection and variety of styles. This week, we’ve got some CCM pop, an R&B album with a twinge of country, and some rap – all capped off with an old standby in the tune du jour. As I prepared this, the theme that came through was one of finding your lane and staying in it. Let’s just get right into it.

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Album 1: All In, by Matthew West (9/22/17)
Matthew West is probably one of the more likeable guys you could ever meet in the industry. This is technically his seventh studio album according to PR standards, but that excludes at least 2 Christmas albums, not to mention 3 independent releases, which I understand. He first hit my radar in the early 2000s with SELLOUT and it’s been a fun time watching his career unfold through the years, even though his core sound and song structure has remained steady.

This album opens with the title track and lead single and for a brief instant, I think it may be something entirely unexpected. The little chipmunk-y screech of “All In” conjured up images of a venture into modern rock, but alas, we are still firmly entrenched in the pop craftsmanship we have come to expect from Matthew West. Hard to not let that heavy snare that comes in for the chorus take over your head and force a nod. It’s good stuff. BROKEN THINGS comes in with an almost identical harmony, just taken slightly out of context. It’s really uncanny and it’s no surprise that this is another single currently charting high on the airwaves. These songs are so anthemic – it’s a real talent, for sure. The third song, MERCY IS A SONG, tones things down a little bit before opening up into a gospel-esque, down-home chorus. This is all exactly what you want from this album – especially if you are marketing the album.
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MUSIC&reviews25 Sep 2017 10:43 am

Well, four years can go by quickly. That’s how long it’s been since the last Music of the Day post. But as I was looking at options for adding more content, it seemed a good place to start, since it’s pretty fun and new music pretty much comes out every week – whether it’s good or not, it can still be a blast to blast… or blast. Here’s how it works. I’ll pick out five albums that have recently hit the shelves and they will be subject to my rigorous evaluations. I’ll sum my thoughts up on each album in 25 words or less (usually 25 exactly), point out two key songs, offer two similar artists that may give you a reference point, and for whimsy, I label each album with a random comparison (this week, it will be NFL quarterbacks).

Your part is to let me know in the comments if I’m on or if I’m on something. Yeah, I think that about covers it. We start in five… four… yeah, now.

Matthew West – All In
http://amzn.to/2ynZLUT | http://amzn.to/2fL3S6B (mp3)

Walking a candy aisle, knowing what to expect from each bar – some sort of chocolate with some sort of filling. That’s Matthew West to me. Kirk Cousins

GRADING KEYS: Something Greater, Never Ever Give Up
EXTRA CREDIT: Brandon Heath, Andy Grammer

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MUSIC&web05 Sep 2017 11:01 am

It’s not Monday, though it may feel like it, and there isn’t a new episode due until next week at the earliest while the studio is relocated, but here I am trying to bridge the gap by holding these show notes until some time in the middle. Eventually, I may be posting things in between these updates, but for now, my writing efforts are primarily elsewhere. Anyway, this last episode was dubbed, “Bears and Beers” and it features another wide range of styles and topics. Enjoy…

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Album 1: Painted Ruins, by Grizzly Bear (8/18/17)
It’s hard to ignore a release from a band named Grizzly Bear, I guess. At least it caught my attention and piqued my curiosity this week in the midst of a lot of nothing. And I had no idea what to expect and I know nothing about them, so I’m just going to dive right in.

Even though, I wasn’t sure what to expect, I still had expectations and they certainly weren’t what I’m hearing on the opening track, WASTED ACRES. Very soft, subtle melodies, almost like a soundtrack, but it’s charming in its own way. A steadier rhythm here on MOURNING SOUND, but still somewhat muted, almost like a 90s new wave thing going on. I’d have to listen more carefully to figure out what the lyrics are talking about, but for now, it’s just a fun listen. FOUR CYPRESSES is the third song and it starts out almost like a sped up game of Pong. I’m pretty sure I like it. I’m glad I caved in to my curiosity.
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MUSIC&web23 Aug 2017 11:45 am

I didn’t see the podcast pop-up in the Stitcher feed until later than normal and then, there wasn’t a good time to post these notes while I was actually around to do it, so now, I’m writing up the show notes for episode 20 and thinking, “hmm… I should post last week’s notes.” And, through the miracle of future-dating posts… here we go…

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Album 1: Every Mile Mattered, by Nichole Nordeman (7/28/17)
I typically spare DNA the quiet albums – especially if they fall in the realm of CCM (no offense to fans of CCM). However, this is the first full album from Nordeman in 12 years, meaning she’s been out of the industry longer than some of the new faces have been out of diapers. Always exemplifying the balance between artistic and accommodating, she tells stories with each song, a canvas for lyrics that convey meaningful depth.

EVERY MILE MATTERED opens the album with a subtle piano refrain that leads into an immediate conversation designed to catch the listener up like two long-time friends reuniting over a cup of coffee (or tea). It all comes back so quickly. The sentimental journey continues with YOU’RE HERE and her vocal is just plain endearing. The chorus opens up a little into a catchy melody and rhythm that maintains a grip on youth and adulthood. And I know that the Digest won’t get far enough into DEAR ME to fully capture the marvel of this song construction, but I’ll encourage you to go back and take a listen to the entire song because it’s quite a moving experience (I’ve gotten goosebumps every time I’ve listened so far). Like what MercyMe attempted with DEAR YOUNGER ME, except that it’s done so. much. better. It’s like she never left.
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