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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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MUSIC&web29 Nov 2017 04:59 pm

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.
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MUSIC&web27 Nov 2017 01:05 pm

Before I start, a brief note: Let me just remind/inform you that Taylor Swift’s new album is NOT ON SPOTIFY (yet). I didn’t just recklessly ignore the biggest release of the year (reportedly close to 1.5 million in first week sales). Calm down. I’m not a hater. When it IS on Spotify, I’ll probably include it that week. For now, we’ve got three other new releases to chat about and that’s just going to have to be okay. These three combined won’t sell as much as Taylor, but they are still quite worth giving a spin. Let’s see how a poppy-funk album stacks up against a funk-gospel and funky-rock. Yeah, there’s plenty of funk to go around this week, capped off by a tune du jour I discovered a few weeks back and still haven’t wrapped my head around. Deal? Okay, let’s go.

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Album 1: Into the Wild, by Manic Drive (11/7/17)

Three months ago, MIC DROP was the Tune Du Jour and I wasn’t entirely sure if it would grow on me or if I would find it annoying. Now it’s the first track on their latest album, which is odd considering the meaning of the phrase. (Maybe Canadians are too polite to walk out after dropping the mic). I still remember them as more of a rock band than a pop outfit – they toured with Stryper, after all – but as I revisited some of their earlier albums, I suppose the hints were always there.

As mentioned, MIC DROP and it’s already familiar to those who have been listening for a while, but for good measure, the song is driven by a funky bass line and upon that foundation they lay horns, claps, and vocals that results in a high-energy pop meets funk track. CEILING continues the groove aspect of it with prominent bass once again, but more of an airy, spacious feel to it – slightly reminiscent of THRILLER in the way it builds to the chorus. My favorite element of this song is the back half of the chorus, during which the music completely drops out and comes back in with a strong cadence. The third track is INTO THE WILD and stylistically, it’s a hard left turn with no turn signal. This is much more laid back and toned down, but it still has a nice rhythm to it and nice instrumentation that includes a lot of fun elements. I’m drawing a blank on the instrument right now, but it’s something of a pipe flute that comes in on the chorus.
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MUSIC&web14 Nov 2017 02:06 pm

It’s November and that means the scales are tipping towards Christmas albums when it comes to new releases in music. ‘Tis been the season since mid-September, but I for one am not ready to commit to Christmas carols just yet, so we’ll try to dig out the “normal” music for as long as we can. This week, we find a teenage ukulele prodigy, a New Orleans bred vocalist and rapper on the come up, and a boy band? All that capped off by a dance track.

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Album 1: Just the Beginning, by Grace VanderWaal (11/3/17)
I doubt there are many people more skeptical than I when it comes to the long term implications of shedding a spotlight on young, talented performers. I don’t watch America’s Got Talent, so I didn’t witness the rise of Grace VanderWaal en route to winning the crown (or whatever they hand out), but she won and now, at the age of 13, she has a full on debut album to her credit. According to her bio, she began composing music at the age of 3 and she’s listed as the primary writer on all of the songs here. AND, in addition to singing, she also contributes instrumentation on many of the tracks. Here’s to holding out hope that we can celebrate a young talent without creating a twenty-something nightmare ten years from now.

The first track, MOONLIGHT, features the ukulele and not much else, setting the tone for an album that’s not typical. The vocals are airy and light, but they don’t lack substance. SICK OF BEING TOLD hints at the songwriter’s age with a slight sense of a tantrum – or at least stubbornness. I’m tired of being told what I should know or do or be. Could just be assertiveness. BURNED offers a more mature sound, nodding towards a classical style on a ballad. This whole album actually seems to deftly balance extremes. Maturity and immaturity. Lighthearted pop and weighty soul. Complicated instrumentation and a simple, efficient presentation.
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