MUSIC&walkTRu21 Sep 2018 08:35 am

Okay, are you ready for some music? I’m still trying to figure out the best way to get back into posting more regularly, but until then, here’s a quick walkTRu of a new album released last week that I was able to get a review copy of. The name Tori Kelly may sound familiar because she’s been pretty busy. She’s competed or appeared on the circuit of television singing and talent contests. She made a name for herself on YouTube. She even voiced a cartoon elephant in the movie SING. She’s been a guest and featured singer many tunes and, as she releases her second studio album, her star appears to be on the rise. Since there are only eight songs, this seems like a good candidate for a walkTRu, so let’s dive in and I’ll share my first impressions.

Tori Kelly – Hiding Place

01. Masterpiece – Okay, it’s been 15 seconds and I had to pause this already. First, that voice. Second, this is a straight up gospel record. This is what happens when I don’t read all the press releases about this. Third, I must re-calibrate and dive back in. I was expecting more R&B – especially with a Lecrae guest spot – but yeah, this has Fo Yo Soul written all over it. In fact, it looks like Kirk had a hand in writing a lot of these tracks, too. Nice surprise.
02. Help Us to Love – This one slows down the tempo and channels the harmonies of the HamilTones (I’m unfamiliar with them), but this is a really smooth track, with a classic feel and man, that voice is quite impressive. Help us to love the way you love [us]… nice song.
03. Sunday – Keeping the tempo dialed down, this track boasts a nice soul and touches from the organ and piano keys to give it a jazzy feel. And the scatting… ski-be-dah-bee-bop, baby. It’s like we’re eavesdropping on a candid recording session.
04. Just As Sure – This one features Jonathan McReynolds and if you’re a fan of gospel music, his last couple albums are definitely worth checking out. Then again, if you’re a fan of gospel music, you probably already know. Anyway, this song treads that line between gospel, R&B, and jazz once again.
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MUSIC&web11 Sep 2018 03:12 pm

NOTE: It has been a while since I’ve connected with the StudioDNA crew. We have crossed paths and emails many times over the last couple months, but our schedules haven’t lined up and this particular episode hasn’t (and perhaps won’t ever) make it to the air. That’s fine. They’re busy. I’m busy. Things happen. However, this has been kicking around waiting to go live for a while now (since late June) and I felt like I should release it and move on in whatever direction works best. If you enjoy reading these and there are no more New Music Digest episodes, fear not. I’ll start something else soon. In fact, I have something music related planned for Friday (unless I lose power). If this episode ends up airing, I’ll update it accordingly. Thanks for reading.

This episode features a 90s monster, a debut with a sense of the 90s, and a collaboration between a familiar face and a DJ whose career BEGAN in the 90s. Capping all of that off is a serious track which in part mourns the loss of the lead singer from an iconic 90s band that was in the middle of a comeback. Let’s get to it then.

Album 1: Come Tomorrow, by Dave Matthews Band (6/8/2018)
If you listened to music in the 90s at all, you couldn’t avoid Dave Matthews Band. I think I went back and forth with liking them or not. They certainly gained a cult following as a jam band, in the vein of the Grateful Dead and Phish, with people collecting various bootleg recordings of shows. But at the same time, they were snubbed by many critics as too popular or sell-outs. When a friend of mine introduced me to Coldplay by playing YELLOW, I asked him if it was a Dave Matthews knockoff. I’ll never forget the look of betrayal on his face. I’ll do worse, here, I’m sure. This is their first new album in six years, I believe – first one I’ve listened to in maybe twenty years?

Starting off with a nice stripped down intro and the familiar, raw vocal, SAMURAI COP (OH JOY BEGIN) opens the album as the first I’ve really heard from DMB since the early days. I get the sense that this would be amazing live. I love the drums and just the bare elements. Everything sounds so… open. Like early U2 almost. Now that I’ve thoroughly irritated U2 fans everywhere, I CAN’T STOP there. The addition of the horns adds a thickness to this song, which is when Dave’s falsetto really shines as a contrast. Yeah, this would definitely be great live. Drums are very impressive. HERE ON OUT feels like the new album’s CRASH INTO ME. Acoustic guitar. Ballad. Nice melody. Yeah. Nostalgia. It’s enchanting.
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MUSIC&web13 Jun 2018 02:42 pm

NOTE: I altered the date of this post because I completely forgot to publish it back in June when I originally put it together. I’m not trying to deceive anyone or trick anyone – I mean, I don’t even expect that anyone is reading that closely. Just set the date back to when it makes more sense.

A hearty welcome back to Aaron (yes, that was a pun as only he would appreciate). It’s been a little while since the last episode, so there were a lot of albums to choose from. Fortunately, most of them were terrible, so the choice was easier than you might think. Okay, I’m kidding, but we do have three solid contenders for this week’s showdown. We’re starting off with a “tribute” to America from an “out of this world” actor-fronted band. Next we’ll switch gears a bit and look into the future with an old friend. And finally, we’ll consider a long-term listening relationship with a quirky little folk rock outfit. Then, while the votes are tabulated, the tune du jour is provided by a cute little redhead who has, in my experience, always leaves you hungry for more. Okay? Let’s check it out.

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Album 1: AMERICA, by Thirty Seconds to Mars (4/6/2018)
Jared Leto plays the Joker in the latest batch of DC universe movies. He’s also the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars, an established and celebrated modern rock outfit. This album is not a part of the DCU, so there’s a chance it won’t be a complete waste of our time. Let’s see how it unfolds.

I’m not sure how much influence Leto has on the writing process, but I have to guess that his acting experience has informed the soundtrack aspects of their music. There’s a great sense of atmosphere established from the opening notes of WALK ON WATER and that carries through the album. I think this was used for some sporting event commercials. Playoffs or finals or something, but I can’t remember which. (Note: ESPN College Football). DANGEROUS NIGHT is another great soundtrack, with a touch of a drumline feel underscoring the dramatic mood shifts that bring and release tension during the album. As we dive into the third song, RESCUE ME, with a bit of a retro riff (I’m blanking on the song it reminds me of), it’s time to point out that Leto’s vocals are fantastic. The hook spans the gap of 80s pop to contemporary dance/pop. I like this album quite a bit.
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MUSIC&web20 Mar 2018 03:07 pm

First off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the significant influence of this podcast. If you think it’s a coincidence that, within mere days of New Music Digest talking about pickle juice, Sonic has decided to offer a pickle juice slush drink, you are naive, my friends. Behold, the power of the StudioDNA bump.

That aside, we’ve got another selection of music for your digestive pleasure today. The new bi-weekly format gives us plenty of options (and makes it difficult to narrow down the most worthy candidates), but I think these are some good ones. This week, it’s a singer songwriter you may know without knowing, a band you know unless you are lying to yourself, and a trio you’ll probably want to get to know. To cap it off, we have a special Tune Du Jour, that fulfills a long standing promise and will satisfy a particular itch in several ways.Let’s get to it, shall we?

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Album 1: Moment of Bliss, by Katie Herzig (3/1/2018)
I first heard of Katie Herzig through a website called Grassroots Music when she was just getting started as a solo artist and making some waves as an independent singer songwriter. Since then, she’s managed to land several of her songs in the background of movies, TV shows, and more – most recently with Netflix’s The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show. This is her first new release in about four years.

The opening strains of STRANGERS reminds me of Cyndi Lauper’s TRUE COLORS (and/or TIME AFTER TIME). It has a nostalgic feel to it and the music is completely peeled away, leaving nothing but a vocal track and subtle background touches. It’s great. BEAT OF YOUR OWN has a bit more energy to it, but still has those 80s-esque pop touches that complement a modern feel and make this a comfortable and enjoyable listen. I’m not going to lie, the first thought I had at the beginning of FEEL ALIVE was… “There, you see her. Sitting there across the way… “ Yeah, that’s right, a Little Mermaid reference. That’s just how the open hit me. The rest of the song doesn’t really follow the path of KISS THE GIRL but I may just like it more because of that.
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MUSIC&web06 Mar 2018 04:10 pm

We’ve got a nice batch of diverse selections today, including the first album of this year that I was anticipating with actual enthusiasm. We’ll kick things off with some hip hop from a couple of oddballs, continue with some driving modern rock, and then round things off with a singer/songwriter bleeding vocals over an acoustic guitar. Finally, there is a “tune du jour” featuring an actor that is at times out of this world. Creepy and exciting. Let’s get to it.

Album 1: Into the Night, by Social Club Misfits (2/9/2018)

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Fern and Marty, a.k.a. Social Club Misfits, are back with their second release on Capitol CMG in as many years. Last year’s “Misadventures” felt like a perfect extension of the duo’s independent material as they maintained their off-beat style and delivery, but showed off more polished production and a full slate of tracks.

Right off the bat, we can see this album is a little different. First off, the opener, NIGHTMARE, doesn’t feature a sermonette from Chris Durso, who has been on most of their previous releases. Second, this is much more of a straightforward rap track, the beats and rhythm is less distinctive, but it is good – that’s for sure. Track two, DIVE, features Beam, who was also on Andy Mineo’s latest endeavor. And if it seems familiar, we did preview this as a tune du jour about five months ago and it’s been a single.This features more of their trademark delivery with nontraditional cadences. I like it. Next up is WAR CRY, which features a vocal lock from Tauren Wells (Royal Tailor), fresh off his solo debut. I love how they appear to fall behind the beat as they deliver their verses, knowing that they are actually controlling the rhythm the entire time. The hook is really nice. Though, if you make it to the end, you might do a double take and wonder if Taylor Swift joined in.
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MUSIC&web14 Feb 2018 11:33 am

So the big music release for the week (of February 2nd) was Justin Timberlake’s “Man of the Woods”. We’re skipping over it for a few reasons. First, we just listened to the single SAY SOMETHING as a “Gotta Try This” last episode. Second, everybody* just heard him perform the halftime show at the Super Bowl. (*by “everybody”, I’m exaggerating for effect apparently numbers were down for this year’s Super Bowl). JT also has a tendency to take things metaphorically (and blatantly) to places that lead to less than comfortable conversations.

Okay, moving past that. There is still some fun and intriguing music to discuss. Normally, I try to span multiple genres, but this week, it also feels like I’m spanning generations with these selections, which all released on the 2nd. (It will make sense soon). To finish off, we’ll take a listen to a new single from a modern pop duo that will probably get you excited about the prospect of a new album, though I don’t see any specifics on the books just yet. Let’s get to this.

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Album 1: Whatever It Takes, by The James Hunter Six (2/2/2018)

Though they hail from England and record in the 2010s, it certainly feels like someone turned the donkey wheel, moved the island, and reset the order of time. (Sorry, I’ve been re-watching LOST). Regardless, the James Hunter Six is another of a growing lineup of throwback artists that could easily fit right in on the Motown label of the early 1950s. I’m liking this trend, so let’s see how the album unfolds.

At the start of the first song, I DON’T WANNA BE WITHOUT YOU, my first spontaneous thought takes me to the dance floor of the Muppet Show. This reminds me of the background music and I expect to hear random puns and one-liners at any moment. Aside from that, this is a really nice sound. We’ve got some saxophones, an organ, and a salsa rhythm underscoring a soothing vocal. This is so nice. I’ll do WHATEVER IT TAKES to keep listening to this album. (There’s one of those puns). This is such a blast from the past. [continue reading this post…]

MUSIC&web31 Jan 2018 03:47 pm

We’re still in January and we’re still looking at a lot of artists and albums I’m not too familiar with if at all, so we’re rolling the dice a little bit and diving into three somewhat unknown entities and who knows what we’ll come up with. This week I didn’t have too much spare time to investigate the immediately new releases – and it was primarily singles, soundtracks, or instrumentals at that – so we’re grabbing some from the previous two weeks and shuffling them in. Looks like we’ve got some bluesy soul, some quirk, and some straight up pop. And we cap it off with a new track from one of my favorite guilty pleasures from last year. Okay, let’s get getting…

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Album 1: Encore, by Anderson East (1/12/2018)

The first I heard of Anderson East was actually on a country station, teasing his single ALL ON MY MIND – which is definitely not country. I didn’t look too much into him, but I listened to the acoustic version of the single when it came out and wasn’t thrilled with it. However, there was enough there originally to warrant a closer look at the album as a whole.

First up is KING FOR A DAY, which actually could be loosely construed as a worthy of a country radio slot. But I get more of a Van Morrison vibe from it. Very bluesy. Nice touches from the horns. Relaxed vocals with plenty of character. THIS TOO SHALL LAST is another slow-ish song, featuring an organ and a nice rhythm. I like the play on words here, kind of dark, but it fits with the blues. Wrapping up our preview is a nice piano-based track, HOUSE IS A BUILDING. I really like the feel of this album – maybe it’s because of the weather, but it just fits so nicely.
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MUSIC&web24 Jan 2018 03:41 pm

Before we get started, there’s something we should probably get out of the way. The old format of NMD had an “appetizer” each week, that is, a single or a song from an album that didn’t necessarily warrant the full three-song treatment due to various factors. Nowadays, we have the “You Gotta Try This” songs culled from social media channels and the “Tune Du Jour” which kind of fills the same void. This week, there’s an album that may not fit either bill, so I’ll submit it as perhaps a pre-show bonus reaction.

Thirty-one years ago, the duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell unleashed upon us all that is They Might Be Giants. This past week, their latest album released and it is not a featured album for a few reasons. Yes, Aaron is a TMBG aficcionado and for that, we aren’t completely ignoring this release. Denee, however, ranks TMBG somewhere between Curious George, The Wiggles, and nocturnal feathered beasts that shall not be named. Be that as it may, we present the aptly titled first track of “I Like Fun”, LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH.

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Now, back to the INTRODUCTION…
Welcome to 2018, a new year and it’s time for some new music. January is typically a slow month for music, since most folks are experiencing shopping exhaustion from the holiday season and all the well-known artists have either spent their last few months promoting a Christmas album or an album they hoped everyone would buy FOR Christmas. However, January can be a good month to discover new or new-to-you artists, too. That said, this week’s selection includes two new-to-me groups, an American Idol alum that has yet to win me over, and a reinvention of sorts in the Tune Du Jour. Let’s dig in and see what’s what.

Album 1: Let the Record Play, by Moon Taxi (1/19/2018)

So, here’s the process of landing on Moon Taxi – which, by the way is a band I’ve never heard of prior to preparing this NMD. Fall Out Boy has a new album out and I expected to include it here. However, it’s explicit (and, upon first listen, unnecessarily so) causing me to figure out how best to include it. As I pondered the best approach, I start previewing Moon Taxi and it occurs to me, that they scratch that Fall Out Boy itch pretty nicely, without the caution tape. Not that they are the same, but… well, let’s just listen, shall we?
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MUSIC&web22 Jan 2018 12:19 pm

Cleanup on aisle three! No, that doesn’t mean these albums are a mess – just that they were missed throughout the course of the year and, since it’s the end of the year, it’s as good a time as any to look back and listen to some albums that somehow fell through the cracks. This of course raises the risk that these albums have become familiar over the course of the year, which negates the initial reactions in the comments, but that’s not the case (at least for these three). This week, we have modern rock, pop, and jazzy hip hop to serve up. Let’s get to it.

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Album 1: Only the Lonely, by Colony House (1/13/17)

If the name Steven Curtis Chapman means anything to you, than pay attention. The founding members of Colony House are both Chapman boys. Will and Caleb, sons of CCM’s SCC have been honing their skills and forging their own musical path for a few years now and those efforts have culminated in their second full album, which released earlier this year – like as early as possible. January, when the record labels roll the dice with unknown quantities and hope that shoppers are so flush with Christmas cash that they don’t care what they are buying as long as it’s new music for the new year! (Sorry, little bit of a rant there).

The group quickly establishes that this is not a Steven Curtis Chapman project. CANNOT DO THIS ALONE actually opens up a lot like what one might expect from for KING AND COUNTRY (the “oohs” are actually near-identical to those from “Oh God, Forgive Us”). There’s an airy modern rock quality to this that feels nice. Odd title to start off an album celebrating loneliness, though, am I right? The next song technically starts with the Bobby McFerrin whistle/snap combination that closes track one. (Side note: HOLY COW, BOBBY MCFERRIN IS 67 YEARS OLD!). I missed the first minute of the song thinking about Bobby McFerrin, but don’t worry (see what I did there?), I can rewind (if I want). [continue reading this post…]

MUSIC&web18 Dec 2017 01:06 pm

It’s time to go BIG! This week, we’re looking at two of the biggest tickets in the entire music industry and one who’s steadily making his way there. U2 finally released their long-awaited, much-refined sister album to 2014’s Songs of Innocence, Taylor Swift FINALLY agreed to letting her reputation run amuck on Spotify’s basic streaming service, and Andy Grammer returns with his third album. After that, while the jury deliberates, we’ll take a listen to an artist who helped pave the way for Andy Grammer’s style, as Mat Kearney gears up for his next album with a brand new single. It’s a lot to take in, we may need a bigger sound system… let’s get to it.

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Album 1: The Good Parts, by Andy Grammer (12/1/17)

Andy Grammer is definitely the least recognizable name on today’s “menu”, but he is pretty popular and he has headlined an NFL halftime show on Thanksgiving. (It didn’t go over too well, but being criticised is one way to prove that you’ve arrived.) Regardless, he’s had some pretty big hits including the lead single off of this album, FRESH EYES, which fortunately falls beyond the first four tracks. First up, then, is SMOKE CLEARS.

This starts with a nice, bare vocal with some soft piano touches behind it. A lot of extra elements are added in to fill out the sound, but it’s definitely not too busy. It’s very laid back, like a vacation soundtrack. The hook has a slight touch of Chainsmokers-like electronica. It’s nice oh-ooo-ah-ohhh. FREEZE starts out without much ado as well. This definitely feels like a summer album – despite the reference to cold temperatures. (Actually, freeze is more a reference to pausing than being cold). It’s fun, but this one seems more incomplete than the opening track. Rounding out the songs is the title track (roll credits). So, if you don’t like his voice, you are not going to like this album because there is really not much beyond that on these songs. This almost feels like a TobyMac song. I like him, but I can see where it would wear thin.
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