Stars - No One Is Lost

This week is a bit of a Sherwin shout-out, a Shert-out if you will. Stars was never one of those crazy influential bands for me but I’ve always enjoyed their songs and think Set Yourself on Fire is a gem of an album. I’m not crazy about the new album that dropped this past week but I have had the title track on in heavy rotation lately. I just don’t know when to listen to the album, it’s like not dancey enough but also not mellow enough; the whole thing just falls into this weird luke warm middle that I just find forgettable.

I think the reason the title track has captured my attention so much is its upbeat notion of our own mortality. Even though “put your hands up because everybody dies” may sound morbid it’s really meant in a celebratory sense that we should all let go and party because now is the time we get to enjoy. 

Put your hands up,

-Zach

Jon Bellion - Carry Your Throne

If I was being scathing I’d say something like this sounds like Owl City fell into the trash bin outside of the studio where Kanye and Sufjan were collaborating (if only) and when he got home he realized there was a discarded mix tape stuck to his back and that would go on to be the backing track for this song. But I’m not being scathing. The nicer way to put it is how evident the amount of influence Bellion draws from Kanye is easily recognizable across his music. Isn’t it nice when someone’s actually taking music from Kanye?

The track above is the only one that sounds like Sufjan though, I’m not even sure he’s one of Bellion’s influences but the large hits transport me right to Age of Adz. I also detect the unmistakable sound of a video game character when it runs into a wall. This is my favorite track on his latest album, The Definition, and I’d recommend giving it a listen, at least for some of the Kanye references. Bellion often rides the line between pop overkill and true originality but never seems to fall into the land of “please don’t embarrass me on shuffle”. 

-Zach

Kay Kyser and His Orchestra - Praise the Lord and Pass The Ammunition

25 feels so much different than 24. I gained a year but I feel like I gained a lifetime (and some acid reflux). I could tell the change was coming when my car rental insurance rate senses started tingling and my music choices went back about 70 years to a time my grandpa would describe as “when you could still understand the words in songs”. It just hit me all of a sudden that I needed to listen to some Ella or Billie, The Andrew Sisters or The Ink Spots, some Bennie and some Dean; it had to be anything before the 1950s to satiate this feeling that I had been missing out. Kind of like when I all of a sudden decided that I love olives and then wanted to have them on everything. Olive sundae anyone? I digress.

As I sifted through music I found this song that I’d never heard before. It’s an old war ballad from 1942 (this version from ‘43) and the concept of it gets me every time. There’s this naive irony in saying God, please help because I need to murder some people.  ”Praise the lord and pass the ammunition”, was actually a quote from the chaplain on the USS New Orleans during Pearl Harbor. In those dark times, the song became an instant morale booster for the troops and even reached number one on the Billboard chart. 

Also I’m pretty sure I’m not getting old; I’ve just been replaying Bioshock and the music is fantastic.

-Zach

Kendrick Lamar - i

Yeah, maybe it’s a little overproduced, maybe it’s a little too “mainstream” for the “true fans” (ha, youtube comments) but maybe, just maybe it’s a testament to Kendrick’s relevance. The king’s back and he isn’t going anywhere. We need more uplifting hip hop; there’s already enough songs about popping bottles, smoking weed and sleeping around. Rap is starting to get as bad as country music as far as the breadth of the subject matter is concerned. With all the struggles Kendrick’s been through, it’s great to hear a song telling us how he’s kept his head above water.

The album art also has to be noted as Kendrick focuses so much on gang violence through his lyrics and now he’s created through imagery a direct translation of “If Pirus and Crips all got along…”. Feels so good to have Kendrick back and there’s hopes of an album before the end of the year. Now if only we could get some new Frank Ocean.

-Zach

Lana Del Rey - Cola
Second Chance Week

In 2012 as I traveled around Europe I was met everywhere with Lana. Her dead stare haunted me from every billboard in every train station. I saw her become a meme with her horrid dance turn and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. Then “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack happened and I was tricked into liking one of her songs. That led to her discography (via a “private session” on Spotify) and then I just kind of fell in love with her music, specifically Born to Die - Paradise Edition (which was just putting her first two albums together and relabeling it. Genius!)

All of her videos and songs focus on this idealized Americana badass lifestyle of not giving a shit and riding motorcycles and falling in love with rough men. My description alone makes me cringe, yet when I listen to her songs and lyrics there is no recoil, I just really enjoy the sound. At this point I’m no longer private session and I even sing along to “Girls” in the car. I had to go with Cola just because of the concept of the song. Her Scottish boyfriend at the time likened the “taste” of all American girls to Pepsi Cola as if it was something exotic. Lana thought it was funny so she unabashedly made a song about it. Some say it’s for shock value, I just think it’s a great way to show that there doesn’t have to be a filter on being a pop artist.

-Zach

(Source: Spotify)

Hozier - Someone New (Live from Spotify London)

There are a few versions of this song floating around but I think this particular one adds just the right amount of emotional depth while still retaining a faint air of catchiness. The concept of the song is what speaks to me the most whether that “Someone New” is the same person or a different person, whether it’s to fall in love with strangers or to grow apart from loved ones you can take so many meanings from some simple words.

To me though, the track foremost captures the optimism of being part of the human race. As much as I claim to hate people, the world would be a bit boring without them, the good ones, the bad ones and even the ugly ones (how else are you supposed to feel better about yourself?) Going forward I think I’m going to try to be a little more open and extroverted at least until I get knifed (and there’s my jaded world view leaking back through already). 

-Zach

(Source: Spotify)

DJ Cassidy - Calling All Hearts (feat. Robin Thicke and Jessie J)

You’re on a journey through the land of the disc jockeys. Your main quest? Find the one true DJ. There will be many trials and tribulations along the way. Be warned EDM land is filled with exciting attractions and special effects but it’s just to distract you from a glorified DJ, a false prophet. As you journey through mash-up jungle mountain you start to realize that “In Da Club” does not actually go with every song (okay, maybe it does). Before your journey ends you have to cross a deadly river where DJs live remix 8bit Styx classics and video game soundtracks. If you’ve made it through that with eardrums then you’ve finally made it to the pink and green throne and the golden microphone of DJ Cassidy: The One True DJ.

What makes him so special? Well, I just saw him at Made in America and he had me dancing like a fool in broad daylight before I had even finished my first beer. Maybe “The One True DJ” is a little over the top but this man had some of the best transitions I’d ever heard in my lifetime and every track was a certified banger. If my opinion of him wasn’t enough, you should probably know that he was also the official DJ for Obama’s 50th birthday, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s wedding and plenty of other celebrity events. Above is one of the two singles released off his forthcoming album, Paradise Royale, that is still forthcoming for an indeterminate amount of time as it was supposed to forthcome this past spring. I forgive him though because with featured artists in the pipeline like Passion Pit, Cee Lo, Chromeo, John Legend, Mary J. Blige etc. etc. etc, I’ll still be first in line to hop on that soul train and ride it all the way Paradise Royale.

-Zach

Beat Connection - Silver Screen (Dreamtrak Diamond Sound)

A lot of BC’s tracks are hit or miss for me but when that blow lands you’re bound to be bruised for a while. Beat Connection has two songs in particular that I felt the need to share. My first choice is the one above but the other recommendation has to be Palace Garden, 4 Am.

The thing I’d like you to pick up on in “Silver Screen” is how well paced everything is. There’s no pressure to the song it just chugs along building layers over a constant rhythm. There’s a moment around the halfway point where after going through most of the motions the song realizes where it can take all of its directions at once. As the ride tempers down at towards the end I’m always ready to start back at the beginning. Palace Garden is a bit different in that it’s more of a driving song where words are picked up along the beat. I haven’t been able to get into many of their other tracks but If anyone has recommendations of Beat Connection songs I should check, I’d be willing to give them a second chance.

-Zach