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.

BONUS: If Anderson East manages to win the day, the bonus track is SORRY YOU’RE SICK. He takes things in a new direction, livening up the tempo and throwing a funky tone over the top. You know, this could be the album that Phillip Phillips was trying for with last week’s release.

Album 2: How to Solve Our Human Problems (Part 2), by Belle & Sebastian (1/19/2018)

I should know more about Belle & Sebastian, but I don’t. They’ve been around since the mid-1990s and I’ve never really paid too much attention to them. I just know that they are a bit quirky and that they would be a good change of pace for this grouping. This EP follows December’s “Part 1” in the series. Part 3 will release next month, at which point the EPs will join together like Voltron and form a full-length album that is no different than the three individual releases except for the packaging. Anyway, we are joining the conversation in progress and jumping in at what will become tracks 6, 7, and 8.

SHOW ME THE SUN opens with a nice bit of intentionally out of sync open-mouth humming (a la Weezer) and dives into a driving rhythm fraught with little touches of random bits of instruments or harmonies or whatever comes to mind. Nice changes of pace throughout the song to keep things interesting. For some reason, I’m feeling like I’m watching a Scooby Doo guest appearance on Sesame Street. I cannot explain why, but that’s a very clear image in my head. The group (not a duo) changes gears with THE SAME STAR, which has a 70s groovy rock sound to it and a prominent female lead vocal. Nice horns, bells, and spacey sounds in the background. Going down another musical tangent, I’LL BE YOUR PILOT almost feels like a modern take on Chuck Mangione’s FEELS SO GOOD. The harmonies remind me of the background music in Gilmore Girls.

BONUS: I said they were quirky, right? Well, the bonus track, should you choose to accept it, is called CORNFLAKES. It is something else they need to say to you. This feels a little frenetic and I don’t really like the phrasing. At least I know why I never paid too much attention to them. It’s not something I would ever sit down and listen to.

Album 3: Dark Horse, by Devin Dawson (1/19/2018)

Devin Dawson is a brand new artist and this is his debut release. Apparently, he had some hits on YouTube and, oh, I actually remember this duet/mashup of Taylor Swift songs. That’s cool, actually. I know nothing about him so, it’s time to hit the interwebs… Actually, I’m going to just get into the music first, and then we’ll see what I found out.

After a weird little car parking introduction, DIP comes in with a cool beat and I’m already into the song. His vocal fits in the realm of Gavin DeGraw, Andy Grammer, and other singer songwriters. I really like how his cadence defines the rhythm of the song. This song makes me desk dance. ALL ON ME was the song that landed him a record deal. More of a ballad than the first song and a hint of a John Mayer sound on his vocal. Pretty straight forward song construction here, but it’s a really fun listen.

Interrupting the songs for a second, here’s what I learned. He’s listed as a country artist. I’ve previewed this album a couple times now and would not have characterized him as country. To be fair, Spotify calls him an “atypical country artist”, but I have him firmly in the singer-songwriter category. This changes how I listen to him (and that’s why I moved this to after the music). I see it now. I still like it, too. I like Hunter Hayes, too.

Okay, track three is called ASKING FOR A FRIEND and it’s another slow one, telling a story. There are some country elements to it, I guess, a little slide on the guitars, but it’s still firmly entrenched in the pop category, too.

BONUS: SECOND TO LAST will actually be the last song we preview (if he wins). This one is in a nice place rhythmically and there’s some really nice elements to the bridge that leads into a fun chorus section musically. This is fun. I’d guess this is fun live in a coffeehouse or bar setting.

TUNE DU JOUR: GOING TO MARS, by Judah & the Lion
Whenever I listen to Judah & the Lion, part of me has that feeling that this is nothing but a guilty pleasure and I shouldn’t really like it that much. However, that part of me is always muted by the singing along, air drumming, and dancing (metaphorically, of course). That album ranks as one of the most fun albums of the year and it did so well commercially that they released a Deluxe version with new singles and remixes. This one captures all the fun and delivers a great message of chasing your dreams and embracing the bigger picture.

peace… love… bdg…