I missed the live show yet again, but just finished up the podcast and I was a little surprised by some of the reactions – and I was surprised by this week’s “winner”. That’s part of what makes this fun. Not every album is going to be a hit and, fortunately, not all of them will be misses. That’s why I try to pick albums and songs that are distinct – that’s where the voting comes in.

I suppose it might be helpful to explain that, while they are hearing the music for the first time on the show, I listen a few times before making the selections – and sometimes first impressions do not prevail. Anyway, I write a lot below so I don’t have to write a lot here… So let’s just dive into the show notes.

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Album 1: Revival, by Third Day (8/4/17)
If I have to be the first to say it, let me say it as loudly and clearly as possible: I’m so tired of hearing how Third Day is going “back to their roots” every time they release a new album. It’s been so long since the early days of Third Day – you know, when their sound was still kind of fresh, new, and unaffected by the yearn for a better bottom line. That was so long ago that it really doesn’t matter anymore if they DO go back to their roots because it’s as stale as a bag of cheetos that has been sitting around in a dorm room all semester. It’s time for a new bag of chips and REVIVAL is that chance to crack open a… aw, never mind, it says this is a “return to their roots.”

The opening song is “Revival”. Can you roll credits on an album or is that just for movies? Title track, lead single, and it feels like a skit from the Muppet show, where they slowly add new pieces to the music, layer upon layer, until at last the full band is playing and singing along. Actually, I don’t really mind this song. Wait, a saxophone, a beat break, and a few tempo swaps? Yeah, no I like it. I’m sensing a pattern now, with “Gonna Be There with Me”. The songs are pretty simple and straightforward up until about the 45-50 second mark and then there’s a Shyamalan twist of unexpected musical injection. SHUT UP. There’s some beautiful piano stuff going on in this one. Third song from Third Day. “Leave This World Behind”. I’m totally befuddled because I listened to this album in the background earlier and was ready to write it off. Now, I’m finding a lot to like about it. It’s not a return to their roots and it is a bit washed out by the production, but it’s not bad. It may grow on me a little.

Album 2: Magic & Bird, by Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed (8/4/17)
TWO YEARS AGO, Andy Mineo teased with hip hop world with a random youtube video featuring a song called, “LAY UP”. It introduced us to the Miner League collaboration with Wordsplayed. Then, nothing. It wasn’t on his album UNCOMFORTABLE. There wasn’t much else to be known about the single or what to expect from the newly established creative partnership. Finally, we know. We have Magic & Bird which reminds me of the kind of fun, concept albums we used to get from Brave Saint Saturn. It’s a side project themed around basketball, 8-Bit video games, and general hip-hop fun.

After a brief introductory skit, we get things started with “KIDZ”, which opens with a Wordsplayed verse. He has a delivery and cadence that is similar to Derek Minor in that it’s a deeper voice, monotone, and steady. Nice beat. “DUNK CONTEST” continues the whimsy with another heavy bass track and a unique interplay between Mineo and Wordsplayed. This album is definitely not going to appeal to everybody, but it’s pretty enjoyable. “SAY LESS” features production by GAWVI and a slight lean towards what one might expect from Mineo. Probably the best of these first three but (spoiler alert) my favorite cut doesn’t come in until the albums finale (“Legend”).

Album 3: LA DIVINE, by Cold War Kids (4/7/17)
This album came out back in April, but they just released a related EP with some re-workings of a few the songs and it brought me back to this one because, why not? Cold War Kids hit the scene with “Hang Me Up to Dry” back in 2007 with a high energy, rootsy rock sound, untarnished by production. They fit right in with groups like The Black Keys and The Heavy and all their albums are lots of fun to listen to.

This kicks off with a poppy introduction before the vocal takes “Love Is Mystical” in a different direction. I love that the piano strain repeats throughout the song, no matter what else is going on. It kind of anchors the song while also letting it run around the room like an unparented child. “Can We Hang On?” is something of a ballad for the group. It’s pretty laid back, but the soul just seeps out of each measure and it keeps you engaged, even in the slowest of moments. I could compare this to the group, fun. who was very popular with “We Are Young” recently. “So Tied Up” brings a nice strong driving rhythm and a “down home” sound that is accessible and creative at the same time. You can’t always listen to this kind of music, but it’s hard to stop once you start.

Chef’s Tune Du Jour: Mic Drop, by Manic Drive
Another one I’m not completely sold on yet. 10 years ago, Manic Drive was a Canadian Alt Rock group. Over the years, they’ve added synth, dance, pop, and everything in between. It seems now they’ve lost a member, trimmed down to two with a bent on pop, dance, disco, something… It seems fun, but I worry when people can’t find their identity… I probably will end up not liking it, but we’ll see how a full album (still unannounced).