Monday, September 29, 2014

New Lorde Single: "Yellow Flicker Beat"

Say what you will about pop music, but one thing is for sure - 17 year-old New Zealand superstar Lorde has mastered the genre on a whole other level.

I'm more than pleased that teens and millennials have someone like the fierce Ella Yelich-O’Connor to look up to - and that they have amped anthems such "Yellow Flicker Beat" to rage to. Dropped just a few hours ago, I'll take a single like this one (off the forthcoming Hunger Games instalment's soundtrack, which she's curating) any day over so much of the meaningless, empty shit that rules the airwaves. Following the flood of fantastic hits from her aptly titled debut album, Pure Heroine, which was released about a year ago now, this soundtrack contribution is just as powerful and sublimely dark - but in a very literal, triumphant, battle-ready kind of way.

Listen to the charged single below, and look out for the full soundtrack in November. On the single release, Lorde wrote: "It’s my first offering from what I hope will be a soundtrack you love. It’s my attempt at getting inside her head, Katniss’. I hope you like it.” We do. Very much.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Baby: In The Round Turns 4!

Similar to Queen Bey, since childhood, four has been my lucky number. Which is just one extra special reason why, four years later, I'm so jazzed to wish my little music-blog-that-could a happy birthday. Four years! Wowzas. I really can't believe it's been 48 months since I thought this thing up, in a Starbucks (stereotypically), in a different city, in an un-music-related career, and in a very different place in my life. My how time flies when you're talking tunes.

Anyway, no need to yammer on about how much joy this website has brought me, and how day after day, I still wake up needing to share songs with the people who frequent it. It still is my very favourite thing, and I truly mean it when I say: I don't know what I would do without it. And you.

Happy listening! A little song to decorate the occasion. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Best New Music: Alt-J's "This Is All Yours"

When you've been at the forefront - the Mercury Prize-winning, Radiohead-resembling Brit-rock forefront after only your debut album - it's pretty inevitable that you'll be entirely unable to "critically" live up to the praised foundation you laid. Sure enough, with Alt-J's This Is All Yours, their second, highly-anticipated album released yesterday, many are disappointedly piping up about the supposed incohesive, un-Awesome Wave-edness of the new collection.

And I say: fuck that. I've listened several times, straight through, in under 24 hours, and I can't see what the problem is. I've been almost moved to tears a few times. It might boast a little musical ADD, but that's everything the band represents - a magical hodgepodge of genre-blending sounds, voices, computers and feelings, pulling everything from honky-tonk to electronic to alt-rock and beyond. I almost never care how the thing flows, I care about that fact that it feels damn good and that, song-to-song, apart from their previous work, This Is All Yours is still likely better and more inventive than every one of its counterparts out there right now. My back isn't up because of an irrelevant Miley Cyrus sample - my ears are caught and I appreciate Alt-J's artistic interpretation. I don't care where each song meanders. Maybe it doesn't constantly boom and eccentrically rattle the way that An Awesome Wave did, but you just can't say an expansive, majestic collection of sounds like this is anything nearing lackluster. 

Buy this album. Whether for the double introductions, quiet instrumentation on "Choice Kingdom," innuendo-filled "Every Other Freckle," Joe Newman's breathtaking vocals on "Warm Foothills" or the anthemic "The Gospel of John Hurt." Hell, top one of those off with "Bloodflood Pt II" and its absolutely engulfing layers of piano, strings and effects. And everything in between, of course.

In the big, gorgeous blend of what's here, you'll find no sophomore slump - only many things that will make you feel alive.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Finally, New Kendrick Lamar: "i"

As fabulous as my night at the Polaris Music Prize was (unreal performances by Mac DeMarco, Basia Bulat, Shad and more), there are, surprisingly, more important things to talk about in music at the moment. Or, one thing, singular, in particular.

New Kendrick Lamar.

A few hours ago, K-Dot dropped "i" from his forthcoming second album - which might be the most anticipated thing in hip-hop's last decade. As the follow-up to the exceptional concept debut good kid, M.A.A.D city, everything about the new release is pretty hush-hush, other than the fact that Top Dawg Entertainment might still plan to drop it this year. If the first single is indicative of what's to come, his sophomore will clearly still be equal parts genius and spunky, while maybe weaving more funk and energy into tracks like "i" - a skittering, retro bassline-filled classic off the bat. The Rahki-produced, Isley Brothers-sampling new single adopts an eclectic, soulful vibe - thanks to a triumphant introduction, intermittent car horns and a sunny chorus that plainly states "I love myself" - coming out just as uplifting as Kendrick's past messaging, but in a far more accessible way.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tonight: 2014 Polaris Music Prize Gala

Tonight's the night! After much jury deliberation, the coveted Polaris Music Prize will be awarded to one deserving Canadian artist later this evening in Toronto. Here are the lucky artists who comprise the short list:

Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Basia Bulat – Tall Tall Shadow
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Drake – Nothing Was The Same
Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back
Owen Pallett – In Conflict
Shad – Flying Colours
Tanya Tagaq – Animism
Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams

In my opinion, this is a pretty tough list to choose from, but based on the amount of listening I've done to all of these (a considerable amount) - I want the award to go to this guy below. I just love him, and I can't wait to watch is performance tonight.

Who do you want to take the Polaris Music Prize home? Leave a comment, tweet @PolarisPrize or use the official #Polaris2014 hashtag.

Friday, September 19, 2014

TGIF: One of those songs you might never get sick of...

Aren't those the best type?

They usually have some very specific ingredients that make them one of those songs. Not overwhelming, good for any season, a little dreamy, perhaps calming... Many things. Kevin Drew's "It's Cool" just gets me every time. His near-whisper, the subdued, downtown beat and that guitar riff - all of it - I've come to realize, has been a constant for me since Arts & Crafts released Darlings in the spring.

If it's as crispy cool as it's been these past few days this weekend, everyone should be able to enjoy this one.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Prettiest J. Mascis Single: "Me Again"

When I was a kid with a squeaky clean taste palette and little to no knowledge of, well, anything - all I knew was that I loved music because I loved a pretty melody. I loved how something sounded.  Before having any kind of critical opinion, genre knowledge, distaste or bias, all I knew was that, whether it was Mariah, the Top Gun soundtrack, Motown or Zeppelin, I liked how nice sounds made me feel - simple as that. Kids are great like that.

Every now and again, I hear one of those pretty, pretty songs that I knew I would have loved as a kid. I wouldn't have had any idea who sang it or what their reputation was, but I'd know that it sounded all sorts of good to me, and I would have listened to it over and over again in my room.

After steadily consuming Tied to a Star, the new solo album from Dinosaur Bones' frontman J. Mascis, I can put my finger on one of those songs. The unadorned and lovely album opener "Me Again" has gotten lots of extra repeats thanks to its gorgeous strums, forlorn lyrics and Mascis' croaky falsetto. It also doesn't hurt that the twinkling acoustic ode goes perfectly with a cup of hot coffee and the cool autumn breeze that's been sweeping in as of late.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Best New Album: ODESZA's "In Return"

It’s been four days since Seattle electronic duo ODESZA released their second album In Return, and after my first listen, I was well aware I needed four full days to process exactly what I was feeling about the eclectic record. Pure bliss sums up those initial emotions; pure euphoric, breathtaken, how-am-I-ever-going-to-take-this-off-repeat bliss, that made it hard to put together coherent words about the dreamy experience that is In Return.

I’m a fairly skeptical “EDM” or electronic listener. I love 1001 elements under the gigantic EDM umbrella, but often find myself wondering why more of them don’t come together in particularly cohesive releases, and wishing for deeper components that, more often than not, just aren’t there. With In Return, an album that I suppose falls into the electronic category – it’s so impossibly far from any one thing, so unique and filled with multi-genre magic that, if this is the beginning of a new electronic age, sign me the f*ck up.

Fairly young, but with a few robust years of experience (debuts, mixtapes, singles) under their wings, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight have touched on some prolific record production here – which I completely expected the second I heard the single “Memories That You Call” back in June. That song, packed with cinematic and sunny textures, was a game-changer for me – so I had no doubt whatever was to come from this much-anticipated, two years in the making release would be on point.

And every single bit of it is, if not more. With a consistent chillwave undertone, In Return threads sounds from every emotive corner under the sun – their signature tribal influences on "Kusanagi," use of charming chipmunk vocals, trip-hop, neo-soul on "White Lies" and enough big beats to please the average listener. If you want something accessible, don't worry one bit, ODESZA still has you covered with this collection - particularly "Say My Name," "All We Need" and "Sun Models" - but like vegetables mixed into your meals as a kid, ODESZA has cleverly blended sophisticated production into likeable synth ditties fit for a glowstick-laden dance floor.

I can’t remember the last time that, song-to-song, I felt the starry-eyed gravity of each track, wondering why more music doesn't shimmer the way this does. 

If you listen to one thing this month – hell, maybe even this year (2014 “Best Of” list foreshadowing?) – let it be ODESZA. You won’t regret how you’ll walk away feeling.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Tune for All Ages: Zeus' "27 is the New 17"

I love Zeus. I also love everything that comes with Zeus - Arts & Crafts production, Toronto pride and damn good, timeless rock 'n roll.  Their latest release, fittingly titled "Classic Zeus," is unsurprisingly awesome - and made even better by vintage pop-rock ditties like "27 is the New 17."

Sounding like something that would crackle perfectly on your record player in the 70s, this upbeat, psychedelic soft rock makes all of us mid-to-late twenty-somethings want to groove to the fact that - according to Zeus - we're really only getting started. In fact, I'm just about positive that even your parents, (cool?) grandparents and pets would feel particularly spry after listening to this jam twice through.

Enjoy! And don't forget to pick up their new album, via Arts & Crafts, in store now.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Xavier Dunn Covers A$AP Rocky's "F**kin' Problems"

I'll admit, I had no idea who Xavier Dunn was until I caught wind that an Aussie folk artist had covered one of my (well, everyone's) favourite guilty pleasure rap collaborations, "F**kin' Problems." It's safe to say I won't lose track of that name moving forward.

Dunn recently put an unexpected acoustic spin on the popular A$AP Rocky, Drake, Kendrick and 2 Chainz joint - which was essentially the (mainstream) rap party anthem of 2013 - decorating his version with swaying strings, layers of harmonies and a One Republic-reminiscent melody that would have anyone swooning, if mention of genitalia, bitches and the n-word weren't the lyrical foundation. Despite obviously doing a little of both mocking and mimicking (it's impossible not to be amused by a falsetto songbird chanting crude lyrics), by the end of the song, the spotlight is, surprisingly, more so on Dunn's ability to shift "F**kin' Problems" into f**kin' gorgeous territory.

Check out the hilarious and ridiculously pretty transformation the rap banger got. I hope it speaks to you the way it does me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Cold War Kids Anthem: "First"

I remember discovering Cold War Kids in the summer of 2007 and feeling like I'd hit the indie-rock jackpot. Nothing about the band's first release was revolutionary, but Nathan Willet's urgent, skilled vocals and the band's scorching instrumentation was enough to keep me coming back release after release because they had that special something. I've since consumed the band in dribs and drabs - sometimes feeling the urge to rave, other times feeling like they weren't progressing the way I had originally expected, but always relatively on board with their varying level of rock quirk.

It's now safe to say that, with the release of the two lead singles off their forthcoming album, I'm beyond excited all over again. The first track "All This Could Be Yours" was great, sure, but their second drop, titled "First," is completely infectious in all of its soaring guitar, hand-clapping, stomp-rock glory. Although it seems to be a narrative on rollercoaster life occurrences (shocker!), it's kind of hard to gauge what the Californian rockers are getting at here - other than a feel-good, unequivocally enjoyable new anthem.

Have a listen below, and look out for Hold My Home on October 21, via Downtown Records.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar: "Never Catch Me"

If you're expecting to sit back, toss on this new Kendrick and Flying Lotus collab, and be walked through another instalment of Good Kid, m.a.a.d city, think again. "Never Catch Me," from Flying Lotus' upcoming new release, You're Dead, is challenging - not unlike the content of Kendrick's breakout album - but in a particularly Lotus kind of way. 

The producer/rapper has crafted one of his his impossibly hyper, yet beautiful, undertones - featuring wild skittering beats, spazzy multi-genre moments and (thank goodness) one soulful piano loop that anchors Kendrick's paced rhymes alongside the nutty samples.

Not many emcee's would be up to the task of rhyming something thoughtful over Lotus' typically unique production, but Kendrick, obviously, holds it down with ease - spitting fire before gracefully scaling down to meet the songs (few) accessible moments.

Personally, I love it. As I do all things K-dot, and all things Lotus.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Discovery: Milky Chance's "Flashed Junk Mind"

How have I never heard this before? Or anything from this band, for that matter?

When I first heard Milky Chance's "Flashed Junk Mind" yesterday, my first instinct was to verbally predict to friends that it would be the next big thing. When I discovered the German duo's album Sadnecessary and this single came out over a year ago, I put a halt on that messaging - but not the belief it still could happen. Falling somewhere in between Miike Snow, Alt-J and Vance Joy, this bouncy, reggae-infused folk ditty is sugary sweet from start to finish, and hard to listen to just once.

Enjoy! Here's hoping these guys continues to pop up unexpectedly.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Single from The Preatures: "Somebody's Talking"

Aussie band The Preatures, who I personally think have all the ingredients to be the biggest thing, have finally released another single to tide us over before the release of their debut album, Blue Planet Eyes. "Somebody's Talking" is everything magical you'd expect after their first earworm hit, "Is This How You Feel"; it's a perfect blend of classic Fleetwood Mac-reminiscent rock 'n roll and the upbeat soul Jackson 5 mastered.

If you're on that HAIM and Wild Belle kick, this girl-fronted group is the next bandwagon to hop aboard.

Look out for their highly-anticipated debut on September 26.