If I’m not mistaken, Björk is one of Deneé’s favorite artists. She’s quirky, creative, and unpredictable (and yes, I played the pronoun game intentionally). So, with a new album from the Icelandic legend releasing, that seemed like an obvious choice. Our second album comes from Derek Minor, a friend of the show – if you don’t believe me, revisit Shoe the Doe episode # 125 and enjoy the discussion. Then, we travel across the pond to one of the UK’s most popular artists – one I’d never heard of before this week. And finally, we’ll all embrace our feelings and determine if an emo music comeback is really warranted in this day and age. Let’s get to it.

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Album 1: Utopia, by Björk (11/24/17)

You never know what to expect from Björk, and as we enter the environment of the opening track, ARISEN MY SENSES immediately feels like an appropriate title. It opens with a repeating electronic sound effect that sounds something like a spider being dragged across a windshield while struggling to get away and continues with a disjointed rhythm that showcases airy vocals, creative dissonance and atypical arrangements. I think by the end, she is singing an ode to IKEA, but I’m probably wrong.

BLISSING ME offers somewhat of a respite from the potential headache of the previous song, backing off to a light harp backing the vocals. It’s calm and it continues a theme of being known and loved for who you really are. Now she is adding more elements into the arrangement, but it’s fine. Somewhat enchanting. I think there may be some whales courting in the background of THE GATE and there are definitely multiple languages going on. This album seems to be determined to create an atmosphere and experience for the listener and it certainly does that. It’s just not one that I’m likely to return to.

BONUS: Roll credits, UTOPIA is the fourth track. It’s eclectic again and she is evoking a space in time fraught with woodland creatures frolicking in between the rays of sunshine as they flicker through the tall tree branches. I also feel as though someone or something is on the verge of a very slow and painful death. Not sure that’s intended.

Album 2: High Above, by Derek Minor (11/7/17)

This is the second installment in what I understand to be a four-part album series that tell the same story in different ways. That, according to Derek Minor himself. HEAVEN’S LIGHT kicks things off with a somewhat unconventional hip hop sound. A forceful merging of styles in some regards, but it seems to settle with a jazz-infused bass thumping introduction to the album’s theme. The overarching (pun absolutely intended) story of these four releases is a desire to rise above this life and embrace the eternal. Aw, and his mom is on the album, too.

Track two, THIS MORNING, continues the laid-back mood with the hint of an edge to the delivery. There’s a little rat-tat-tat going on in the background and Minor is talking about how he has nothing to worry about in life because God is in control. It’s not my favorite style, but it works. WALLS opens up with a refrain from Urban Rescue, a fairly new worship group, and then drops into a steady beat that allows Minor to work in a more familiar cadence. This feels more like him and the content is spot on, too. Convicting and encouraging us to live out our faith and reach out to the hurting around us. I like it. My favorite of the three.

BONUS: The fourth track is called, “higher Higher HIGHER” (had to use quotes to make sure the effect wasn’t lost) and, based on the title, it notes a steady elevation of urgency. We’re back into more of an R&B feel to the track, which is fine. It’s a good group of songs.

Album 3: The Architect, by Paloma Faith (11/24/17)

Though it’s difficult, we’ll skip over the voice track from Samuel L Jackson (even though it is what originally caught my eye) and dive right into the title track, THE ARCHITECT. The song opens with a piano part and a soulful rhythm when Faith breaks in with an attention-getting vocal and then on the chorus, it’s opened up into a head bobbing beat complete with a record scratch to a halt for a breath before continuing. This is thematically touching on forgiveness and revenge. Apparently Paloma (which means “dove”) Faith has three straight double-platinum releases. Crazy, but it’s good music.

Up next is GUILTY which takes on the feel of a James Bond soundtrack – and I can’t help but glance over my left shoulder each time the background vocal comes in on the left side. This song is talking about taking ownership for your part of a disagreement and the pain you caused. The press release mentions that it’s about the need for men in general to own up to their emotions. The music makes me think of K-Os. Track three really dives into the emotion, calling you a CRYBABY or something to that effect. It’s okay to show your emotions – even if it means crying. In fact, that makes you a real man. All this over a nice disco-esque, soul soundtrack that drives you along with the melody. I really like the richness and stylistic diversity on this album so far.

BONUS: Featuring John Legend, I’LL BE GENTLE serves as the bonus track, just in case, and it continues the theme of dealing with emotions honestly. Legend’s contribution portrays a man coming clean to his pain and emotion and together they make each other better. It’s a nice R&B ballad duet. This album was a nice surprise.

TUNE DU JOUR: WE FIGHT, by Dashboard Confessional
What better way to complement an album about how important it is to embrace your emotions than a return to form orchestrated by an aughts emo band? First off, they did record a few cover songs earlier this year, but I’m choosing to ignore those because they were pretty terrible. Second, I didn’t really listen to Dashboard Confessional much, save for reviews and a few singles, but they had a pretty good run in the spotlight. Now, WE FIGHT. I actually don’t mind this song and it may just work if this album sticks with this sound. There are a lot of pop/punk/rock outfits going around pretending they aren’t emo even though deep down it’s the same thing. (I’m looking at you Fall Out Boy, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Panic! At the Disco).

peace… love… bdg…