Five Quality Tracks: March 2017

March was ridiculous. Somehow, after all this, I failed to include new songs from Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Fleet Foxes, and Real Estate. That’s honestly a crime, and I apologize. All indications point to Kendrick dropping an album (or at least something) on April 7th, and Fleet Foxes will release their long-awaited follow-up album in June, so they’ll still have a chance to make it on here. And so, without further ado, five quality tracks for March.
 
 
1. Lorde: “Green Light”

A friend of mine recently asked me who makes more ‘anthemic’ songs — Taylor Swift or Lorde? Lorde’s celebrated debut album from 2013, Pure Heroine, was exceptional, full of quietly encouraging, relatable songs (“Team” is an all-time favorite), but I wouldn’t characterize it as anthemic, necessarily. Swift may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but singles like “22,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and “Bad Blood” are as conducive to late-night, impromptu sing-alongs as anything. So, after judging their musical output as a whole, my answer was Taylor Swift. BUT, on a song-by-song basis, the most anthemic track either of them have ever done is easily Lorde’s new single, “Green Light.”

After four fairly quiet years since Pure Heroine, Lorde, the New Zealand phenom who first deservedly captured our attention at the age of 16, is returning to us with her sophomore effort in a couple months. For her new album, Lorde tapped Bleachers and fun. member Jack Antonoff to produce and help with songwriting. Antonoff has production experience with some of the biggest names in pop, including Taylor Swift, Sia, Rachel Platten, and Sara Bareilles, so I was interested to see how his influence would manifest itself with Lorde.

I was immediately taken aback by “Green Light,” and not exactly in a good way. It is very pop in a reach-for-the-stars kind of way, which is not what I expected from Lorde and her more brooding, subtle style. But the more I heard it, the more the various parts stuck with me, like that enticing rhythmic piano in the lead-up to the chorus, or Lorde’s pitch-perfect lyrics, like her sneer directed at an ex, singing “She says you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar.”

Previously, Lorde deftly straddled the line between electro-indie and pop in a way that was unique at the time. So to hear “Green Light,” which is very much a full-fledged pop song, was a bit jarring at first. But the thing is, “Green Light” aims big — that’s the whole point — and it succeeds tremendously. Taylor Swift has written timeless anthems, but if I were to drive around with the windows down late at night with friends, the first song I would want to hear is “Green Light.”

 
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Five Quality Tracks: April 2016

Including initial thoughts on Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Drake’s VIEWS

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1. Weezer: “California Kids”

We’ve gotten to a point where we judge Weezer too harshly. They were one of the most celebrated bands of the ’90s with their first two albums, the Blue Album and Pinkerton, but they slowly fell out of critics’ (and even some fans’) good graces as Rivers Cuomo opted instead for cheap hooks and obvious lyrics. While a lot of their decisions were unfortunate, they still cranked out fun, catchy songs. Their two most recent albums, 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End and this year’s White Album, both even echo the magic of their old stuff. The White Album may not be quite as inventive as the material from their earlier days, but the songs are plenty satisfying. “California Kids” has a melody that’s ready for summer, harmonies straight from the Beach Boys’ playbook, and most importantly, huge, fist-pumping, “Say It Ain’t So”-style guitar riffs. If you still haven’t forgiven Weezer for past transgressions, it’s time to open that cold heart of yours.

 
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Five Quality Tracks: August 2015

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This was a feature that I used to do for the Daily Californian’s Arts & Entertainment blog. I decided to give it life again here. At the end of each month, I’ll post a feature highlighting five quality tracks released during that month.

1. Beirut: “Gibraltar”

It’s been far too long since Zach Condon of Beirut graced us with The Rip Tide four years ago — I’ve been missing his pleasing style of sparkling indie pop. “Gibraltar” furthers the more minimal blueprint of The Rip Tide, largely foregoing the “world music” that Beirut became known for originally. There are no horns or strings to be found here, but there’s still plenty to keep us interested. The piano is bright and the melody sweet, but the percussion is what makes the song, with its combination of bongos, shakers, and well-placed handclaps. It’s a light, airy, and delightful song.

 
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Five Quality Tracks: February 2015

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This was a feature that I used to do for the Daily Californian’s Arts & Entertainment blog. I decided to give it life again here. At the end of each month, I’ll post a feature highlighting five quality tracks released during that month.

1. Alabama Shakes: “Don’t Wanna Fight”

Alabama Shakes surprised everyone with their fully-formed, blues-rock debut Boys & Girls in 2012, gaining popularity on the back of lead single “Hold On.” The band makes their return this year, delighting us with the booming and gritty “Don’t Wanna Fight.” The instrumentation sounds like peak Brothers-era Black Keys, but with the always-impressive yowl of lead singer Brittany Howard.

 
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Best Albums of 2011

For some reason, Facebook decided by Best Albums of 2011 post broke some kind of copyright, so it (and all of its HTML) got deleted. For those who are interested, here was my list (with a little less pizazz unfortunately).


25. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming


24. Yuck – Yuck

23. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

22. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

21. Atlas Sound – Parallax

20. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread

19. Real Estate – Days

18. Generationals – Actorcaster

17. Adele – 21

16. The Strokes – Angles

15. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

14. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

13. Cults – Cults

12. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne

11. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

10. The Roots – undun

9. Wilco – The Whole Love

8. The Antlers – Burst Apart

7. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

6. Beirut – The Rip Tide

5. Drake – Take Care

4. The Black Keys – El Camino

3. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

2. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

1. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues