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.

BONUS: If this album wins, track four is ONE TRACK MIND, which features rapper A$AP Rocky. This one, of all the songs, spotlight the vocal, peeling back the instrumentation and letting Leto fly. This reminds me a bit of MuteMath, which is a compliment. Also, if you want a full sense of the soundtrack feel I was talking about earlier, the next song, MONOLITH, is about a minute and a half instrumental that would totally fit into a nice action / suspense sequence.

Album 2: Future, by Jordan Feliz (3/23/2018)
Jordan Feliz is a friend of the show. The Studio DNA duo spent a good deal of time with him on episode 77 (https://www.spreaker.com/user/studiodna/77-shoerview-andrew-peterson-and-jordan-)
He was fairly new to the music industry at the time, making a splash with a debut release that was a nice blend of artistry and pop appeal. Now he’s back with his follow-up release and we’re all hope it is another step forward in the career of a nice guy with a lot of talent. How will it measure up?

First up, WITNESS and, can I get a witness? This is a radio single, if I recall, and it has been on the air for a while, though I avoided picking it for a Tune Du Jour specifically because I wanted to cover this album upon its release. So this has a nice soul / pop fusion groove to it. Nice drive to it and very appealing. COUNT THAT HIGH tones things down a little bit with a hint of Lion King on the intro and almost a boy band quality of pop sensibility here – not a bad thing. It’s a good arrangement, with a few quirky elements thrown in to keep you tuned in. Which brings us to track three: FAITH. This starts out pretty mellow again, just a piano and some soulful humming. I kind of expect it to explode with energy and it does pick up a little for the bridge and chorus, but it’s stays mostly muted. It’s a nice album.

BONUS: STREETS OF GOLD await us if this is your winning album. Based on the production, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is slated for singlehood at some point in the future. It’s funny how they put in those few extra details when they want it to hit the radio. This falls in the realm of modern R&B, but poppy, like Jealous, by Nick Jonas.

Album 3: I’ll Be Your Girl, by The Decemberists (3/16/2018)
Another modern rock group to round out the selections, but they are different enough I think that it shouldn’t cause a revolt… I mean, their lead singer has an accent, even when he’s singing. I’ve never listened extensively to this group, but they’ve been around for a while and there are enough of their songs that I recognize when they come on that I’m curious to see if there’s a reason why I don’t listen to them regularly.

So, this is a modern rock group, but their definition of modern includes alt acoustic folk. ONCE IN MY LIFE has a nice laid back feel as we ease into the album, but you can tell there’s more to it. As it builds to about the minute and a half mark, we get some extra elements added in. It’s a really nice feel. Definitely enjoyable. Track two is called CUTTING STONE, which offers a retro feel in the soundtrack and definitely embraces the folkier side of things. It really stripped down and the lyrics are pretty odd. SEVERED opens with some 80s synth, a driving beat, and a great first line, “I lie like a whisper.” A bit more energy in this one. A lot of fun elements to this album.

BONUS: Our fourth track is STARWATCHER. I think they remind me most of MeWithoutYou, but with more of a traditional sense of melody. I like it. Definitely a fun album.

TUNE DU JOUR: Rest in Grease, by @Wendys
Yes. Yes. and Yes. Perhaps the best corporate use of Twitter in the past few years has been the savagely hilarious 140-character blasts from the fast food chain, Wendy’s. And now, it’s on another level. This is silly and really not good music, but it’s the principle of the thing, really.

peace… love… bdg…