Friday, April 24, 2015

TGIF: 5 Pop Guilty Pleasures Right Now

My friends always (used to) give me a hard time for being a sort of walking contradiction: I appeared to know almost everything there was to know about music; yet, was the latest to discover any sort of radio famous, top 40 hits. Seriously. Nearly a year after its release, I would hear the biggest Katy Perry song, start bobbing my head, and ask if it was new.

I guess you could say that I spent so much time reading about the classics and digging for new gems, I sometimes forgot - or could care less - to pay attention to what was ruling the pop airwaves, and might be gone and forgotten tomorrow. Sue me.

But, times have changed. In my work, I deal with all sorts of music on a daily basis - a large part of which is pop (in every way you could imagine the genre). I know what music is being released most days of the week, and take it upon myself to thoroughly listen, each day of the week. The outcome? I'm no longer a music-loving contradiction, and am a shameless pop hit fanatic (while still maintaining my prior musical interests, obviously). I know a juicy hit when I hear one.

Here are five of my current pop/dance guilty pleasures. Take a listen, and if you're like me, you'll find yourself almost immediately converted. I refuse to feel basic for liking these songs or artists, and neither should you. Have a great weekend!

1. Where Are Ü (feat. Justin Bieber) - Jack Ü: I'll admit, I had never even really bothered to listen to Justin Bieber before this song, and hated him by default. But, when I heard his pretty vocal here, I was blown away. I guess this was a song of Justin's, that he was having trouble completing, before Diplo and Skrillex swooped in and made it into this beautiful dance track.

2. I Really Like You - Carly Rae Jepsen: If you can honestly tell me you and your friends aren't considering creating a singalong montage video set to this song, I'd be shocked.

3. The Fool - Ryn Weaver: This up-and-comer kind of straddles the border between mainstream pop and indie-pop, but, either way, she sounds great on this sweet tune.

4. Steal My Girl - One Direction: Although from last fall, this song (and Harry Styles...) is everything. Something about that piano stomp has a modern-day "Jack and Diane" feel.

5. Peanut Butter Jelly - Galantis: So, I saw this song come into my mailbox the other day and figured it was going to be a goofy, parody-like hit. But it's not, it's just stupidly catchy, an all-round blast and happens to name drop a delicious sandwich.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Must Listen: Alabama Shakes' Sound & Color

Alabama Shakes' highly anticipated second album, Sound & Color, dropped this week after a three year wait for the follow-up to their acclaimed debut, Boys and Girls. Unlike the consistently gritty blues-rock heard on their first effort (which landed them a spot on Dave Matthews' ATO Records), this one is a golden rollercoaster of genres.

Still led by Brittany Howard's coined raspy howl, the album throws back to the yesteryear rock moments that shot them to fame (pretty straight out of high school), while touching on country, soul and funk at every chance in between. 

For me, the standout tracks are the Joplin-esque "Don't Wanna Fight" and "Miss You," 70s funk-riddled "Guess Who" and quiet Americana breather, "This Feeling" - which I envision on constant repeat during long highway drives this summer. The whole album, however, is exceptional and proof that, if a band takes their time in between releases, tours and nabs the right mentors, they will continue to evolve into a better version of their past work.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Best New Track: Wet's "Deadwater"

It might be a big statement, but I think I speak for most music writers when I say that, Massachusetts indie-R&B trio Wet are going to release one of the best debut albums of the year.

These guys are just... outstanding. I've been saying it forever. They're a unique brand of "indie" that's accessible to any kind of listener; accessible in a way that's only achieved through universally likeable, relatable song concepts.

Following their breathtaking self-titled EP, "Deadwater" is the lead single from their forthcoming debut album, titled Don't You, which will finally drop this fall on Columbia. It's unbelievable that Wet keeps keep adding impressive notches to their short belt of singles - all of which are founded on mostly slow, glittery production and carried by Kelly Zutrau's effortlessly creamy voice. 

Each time they release a new single, I doubt they could top the last heartwarming melody they crafted. Yet, each track proves this long overdue album will be chock full of those.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ivory Hours: "I Won't"

On Sunday night, I was invited to a Sofar Sounds show, and, as per the Sofar drill, wasn't aware of which bands would be playing prior to arriving.

While all of the four local acts ended up being great, I was particularly excited to hear I'd finally catch London (ON) indie-pop group Ivory Hours and their newest single, "I Won't." Although it was an intimate setting, it wasn't hard to tell by lead singer Luke Roes' soulful voice and guitar play that the studio version of the summery love song was airwave material.

Sounding a little Vampire Weekend and Phoenix in its bouncy chords and melody, "I Won't" is actually completed by Roes' charming falsetto - both live and on the album.

You can catch two of their live shows during Canadian Music Week, and be sure to pick up their debut album on June 9.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Best New Track: Patrick Watson's "Places You Will Go"

I've been a huge fan of internationally acclaimed Montreal artist Patrick Watson since my late high school days, and continue to be totally awestruck every time he releases a new song.

His forthcoming album, Love Songs for Robots, is due out on May 12 (thank goodness), and in the mean time he's released both the title track and my current favourite song, "Places You Will Go." Anyone who knows Watson's expansive style knows that, while he dabbles in everything from chamber-pop to folk and most things in between, it's his soft, distinct vocals and breathtaking melodies that make the music what it is.

While the lush song is built over Jose Gonzalez-reminiscent strums and percussion, the song really reaches a beautiful place once that echoey guitar chimes in overtop. Have a listen below.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Zero 7 feat. José González: "Last Light"

British trip hop duo Zero 7, who most people might remember from the early millennium days of The OC, Garden State and Wicker Park soundtracks, are back with a new EP.

The band has plans to release their first full-length album in five years, but for now, has left us with EP3 - an airy, four-song release that's sonically really similar to the band's earlier, most well-known production.

You can listen to "Last Light," their whimsical collaboration with José González, below. Have a relaxing weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Artist to Watch: Billie Marten

About five years ago, I heard teen songbird Birdy for the first time and was taken aback by the young artist's chilling voice and covers. Like so many other emerging teen artists, she gained a fast, dedicated following by uploading YouTube videos of her sweet covers, before going on to craft more original songs.

Such is the case with another young British artist I recently came across. Billie Marten, whose debut EP Ribbon was a mix of covers and impressive original material, just dropped her new single "Heavy Weather" - a wise-beyond-her-years vocal and lyrical contribution to the burgeoning female folk scene.

Her voice, essentially, is perfect. Soft and effortless, Marten's croon is only half of the equation - the other half being her skilled guitar plucks and mystical imagery. 

Here's her brand new single, "Heavy Weather," as well as a heartwarming cover of a Hall & Oates classic. Don't get too attached though; soon, she'll be off to college and we might be without for awhile.