Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Listen to Brandon Flowers' New Synthpop Anthem "Lonely Town"

In advance of his second solo release, The Killers' front man Brandon Flowers dropped his third single from the new album on Monday.

"Lonely Town" is a dance-heavy anthem - sounding oh-so-deliciously-retro start to finish with its booming horns, glittery synth and Flowers' achy, Springsteen-reminiscent croon. The song takes a particularly awesome turn mid-song, when Flowers summons the help of a big, passionate gospel choir to help him blast his message. Anyone who knows me knows it usually only takes a choir and horn section to sell me on a song.

Based on the first few singles, The Desired Effect is looking it will be full of these kinds of nostalgic, stadium-ready jams that remind of Julian Casablancas' poppier solo spin away from The Strokes. 

Look out for The Desired Effect on May 19, via Island. (And check out the cute, then suddenly creepy, video below.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Favourite New Track: Wolf Alice's "Bros"

North London band Wolf Alice recently released a newly reworked (and amazing) version of "Bros," a song they've been playing for years, which is finally set to appear on their highly anticipated debut album.

About the childhood friendship ode, lead singer Ellie Roswell said, "'Bros' is a sentimental tune to us, it's grown and changed with us over the past couple of years, taking on different shapes and forms until it evolved into being this definitive album version. It's an ode to childhood imagination and friendship and all the charm that comes with that."

Guided by wistful guitar echoes and Roswell's sweet voice, the melodic tune is one of those timeless rock songs - reminding of some of the atmospheric dream-rock classics put forward by The Sundays and Palma Violets.

It's a good song for summer, which, from the look and feel of today, might have finally arrived. Have a listen, and look out for My Love Is Cool on June 23.

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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Toronto's Best New Artist: River Tiber

In the last six months, 24 year-old Toronto artist River Tiber has been described as “Toronto’s one-man answer to Rhye,” by SPIN and an “undeniably serious talent,” by the Toronto Star.

I've written about how much I believe the above statements before, and after waking up a month ago to read a Noisey article titled, "Who the hell is River Tiber and why is he suddenly everywhere?"- I quickly realized the Toronto-based artist/producer had hit his stride.

The above article, and the many others that accompanied it, is referencing Tommy Paxton-Beesley, AKA River Tiber, as a hot ticket item after collaborating on BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah's album and lending his vocals to Drake's "No Tellin'," off the chart-topping mixtape If You're Reading This It's Too Late. Drake sampled Paxton-Beesley's unreleased track "No Talk."

That's the thing about Drake albums - it's easy to glide through, oblivious to the bundles of samples his producers threaded together to make it as good as it is. But, one thing's for sure, Drizzy's always one to pull someone obscure off The 6's benches and into his world of mindblowing fame. 

With a pure, Jeff Buckley-reminiscent voice and proficient instrumental skills, it was only a matter of time before Paxton-Beesley's phone began ringing off the hook - I think it's just most artists' wildest dream that one of the first calls would be Drizzy.

Watch out for River Tiber - either himself, or his production - because he's about to blow up. You can listen to his jazzy new single, "Motives," below.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drake Debuts New Bonus Track "My Side"

After a premiere performance of his new bonus track, "My Side," at Coachella on Sunday night, Drake has released the mastered version of the song - which will be one of a few added to his recently released mixtape, If You're Reading This It's Too Late, on April 21.

"My Side," a woozy, downtempo ballad directed at Drake's flavour of the week, sees him half-crooning, half-defeatedly rapping about compromise and the dwindling romance. Why are we wasting our relationship on a relationship? Drake asks, while telling his "side."

In the past few days, Drake also announced he'd be embarking on a short North American stadium tour (with Future) in the upcoming months. Before his annual OVO spectacle, you can catch him in on the Jungle Tour in Toronto on June 6.

(Drake photo via)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kanye, Lil Wayne, Schoolboy Q & Pharrell Show Up on Tyler, The Creator's New Album

Surprise! Someone dropped a new album ahead of its original release day.

Actually surprising, though, is how unexpected this entire release sounds. Produced entirely himself, Tyler, The Creator dropped Cherry Bomb digitally last night (physical copies arrive April 28) - and after only a few listens, it's not hard to hear that it's his most dynamic release yet. I won't call it accessible - it's still gritty, growly and oddly experimental - but the N.E.R.D.-sounding samples and beats make the overall sonics are lighter and jazzier than his previous three albums.

Although not a collaboration-heavy album, the Odd Future member did score some seriously high-profile cameos. Both Kanye West and Lil Wayne show up on "Smuckers," Schoolboy Q lends himself to "The Brownstains" and his idol, Pharrell, contributes to "Keep Da O's."

Although dark and tough for a lot of people to stomach, I've always loved the Tyler and respected his quirky, formidable presence in the rap game. He blatantly - often, hilariously - rejects the mainstream radio-rap game, and for that, I'll always come back to hear what he has to offer.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A$AP Rocky Debuts "M'$"

Following his lecture at the Red Bull Music Academy, A$AP premiered "M'$" - a new single that we all presumed was off his forthcoming album he announced last week, At.Long.Last.ASAP.

Before anyone was able to get too excited about the album's new material, Rocky tweeted that the song wasn't a single, shooting down our presumptions:
Either way, "M'$" is a solid appetizer after a fairly long wait for new A$AP. Featuring Honorable C-Note and Mike Dean's production, Rocky's effortless rhymes swagger around the woozy beats, preaching about his self-made success.

Will "M'$" be this month's "woes"? Who knows. But this gloomy new single song is a bit of a banger. A$AP promises his new album is coming "seriously soon," so... watch out for that?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Best New Album: Sufjan Stevens' 'Carrie & Lowell'

In any musical great's case, it will always be debatable what their seminal album was; which album had the most cultural impact, emotion, melody, genius. 

In the case of Sufjan Stevens, a contemporary indie-folk staple, there are a number I can think of that could arguably be his "best," his most important. As is the case with any longstanding artist, they're all wedged into the middle of his solid 15 year career - when he'd rid himself of his training wheels, but not yet diversified so radically even devotees couldn't stay on board (like so many do).

Last week's release of his seventh album, Carrie & Lowell, proved he might have just hit seminal.  And, he's not even close to unrecognizable or irrelevant. In fact, this constant purveyor of spiritual, thoughtful folk, hasn't shown us even close to his deepest until now.

All of his prior albums were full of inexplicable wonder, but there were threads of dark secrets throughout each, begging to be pulled further. Carrie & Lowell, named after his estranged (now passed) Mother and stepfather, is a different spoonful of wonder and the bold continued unveiling of those secrets. It's brutally honest, to a perfectly uncomfortable point. It's sad - really sad, at times - and lacking the glittery bursts of both instrumental and lyrical triumph we heard on songs like "Chicago."  But it's candid storytelling is quietly uplifting, making it impossible not to to feel his closure, along with him. It's a eulogy for his Mother, who left him at a young age, and a eulogy for what he's obviously been feeling for many years. We could all use more intimacy like this.

The most interesting thing about this album, is that even if you have no interest in the back story of Carrie & Lowell, and only showed up for the fluttering strings and breathtaking harmonies, he's positioned these powerful tales in such a way that there's no way you can't hear them.

I appreciate Sufjan for telling stories like they've never been told before.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Best New Track: Tame Impala's "'Cause I'm A Man"

Acclaimed Australian rockers Tame Impala are most definitely known for their psychedelic rock offerings and fearless experimentation. All of it's smooth; all of it's deliciously trippy.

But, upon hearing "'Cause I'm a Man," the single they dropped yesterday as part of the follow-up to 2012's critically praised Lonerism, I'm quite confident we've never heard anything quite this smooth or trippy.

In fact, I think the band just wrote their first R&B anthem.

"'Cause I'm a Man" is a half-defeated/half-bravado real life confession led by mastermind Kevin Parker's best, most soulful falsetto vocals yet. Starting by asking "What have I done?" and calling himself "pathetic," Parker's feathery vocals glide alongside the hallucinogenic instruments and effects before realizing, "'Cause I'm a man, woman." At least he's honest? In fact, his is such a real thought process, delivered in this impossibly airy, melodic way, that I reckon it would be pretty tough for any lover to stay mad at him.

One thing's for sure: between this new single and the equally woozy, infectious (eight minute) first single, "Let It Happen" - at this point, Tame Impala are staged to deliver one of the best albums of the year.

Take a listen to the new single below and look out for Currents in the coming months.