Saturday, June 28, 2014

Best Music of 2014 So Far (15 Songs, 5 Albums)

Best Tracks

1. War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure” / “Red Eyes”

Best opening 14 minutes on an album since Band of Horses’ Cease to Begin back in 2007.

2. James Vincent McMorrow – “Look Out”

Haunting and beautiful evidence of what the talented Irish songwriter can do if he borrows a touch from Bon Iver.

3. London Grammar – “Maybe”

A brilliant addition to their US release. Emotive and passionate and just as excellent as always.

4. Mimicking Birds – “Acting Your Age”

Just close your eyes and let this one wash over you. Nate Lacy is the most talented person in indie that no one knows about.

5. The Antlers – “Palace”

It starts gentle and ends with the kind of force The Antlers are capable of when firing on all cylinders.

6. Beck – “Blue Moon”

So this is the transformation of Beck, who might be better right now than he’s ever been.

7. Young the Giant – “Mind Over Matter”

Sameer Gadhia might be one of the most interesting vocals in music right now, and he lets it stretch on this optimistic and defiant jam.

8. Great Good Fine Ok – “Not Going Home”

They’ve yet to release and album and both their singles have landed on my lists. Hoping for more like this one.

9. Broods – “Bridges”

The New Zealand brother-sister duo lean on the sister’s breathy vocals and the brother’s body-swaying musical creations.

10. The Hold Steady – “Wait a While”

A return to the rock roots and the stories. It’s good to hear Craig Finn on top again.

11. Foster the People – “Pseudologia Fantastica”

Foster the People have decided to be the band we all wanted MGMT to be, and with great psychedelic-pop results.

12. Lost in the Trees – “Past Life”

The band always seem to operate in the dark, and this one is no different. But it’s them at their most expansive and, consequently, at their best.

13. Bad Suns – “Transpose (Nicita Remix)”

Their label says this in an “insta=grat” track and I tend to agree. Thing is I’m still singing it months later.

14. Nickel Creek – “Love of Mine”

Welcome back, old friends. There’s that familiar feeling again. My ears missed you.

15. Hozier – “Work Song”

Big things are coming for Hozier. “Work Song” is a heavy, gospel-influenced track. With this and “Take Me to Church” on just EPs alone, Hozier is about ready to be a household name.

 

Best Albums

1. War on Drugs – “Lost in the Dream

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2. James Vincent McMorrow – “Post Tropical”

Post_Tropical

3. Beck – “Morning Phase”

Beck-Morning-Phase

4. The Antlers – Familiars”

5. Mimicking Birds – “EONS”

Mimicking-Birds-Eons-608x608

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Coldplay – Ghost Stories

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★★★1/2

What a career Coldplay has had. Although lampooned by certain sectors, they are now reaching a point of sustained popularity rarely achieved. Even publishers that have spent years negatively judging Coldplay are starting to look back at albums like Viva La Vida—this amateur critic’s favorite—and regard it as something of a classic. Despite their penchant for being mopey and dreamy, they’ve also managed to produce some distinctly different albums. Just look at the range of difference between acoustically-oriented Parachutes and the electro-pop of Mylo Xyloto, both good in their own way.

Now we get Ghost Stories, a post-breakup album for Chris Martin and company, and the expectation is that mopey and dreamy will once again rule the day. And for the most part, yes, this album is a much more restrained affair compared to previous efforts, for better or for worse. For better because mood-wise, the feel is distinct. This is an album that can accompany a lonely night drive. For worse, because catharsis is lacking. If you’re waiting for the album to build-then-burst like so many Coldplay tracks, you won’t find that moment, even when you think it’s coming on closing tracks like “O”, which feels like it builds and builds until it just simply decides to end. This is still a worthy addition to the Coldplay discography, though. The infectious “Magic” and standout “Ink” bolster a strong start before trademark softy “True Love” breaks in. “Midnight” is a curious soft-electro single. It’s another track that feels like it’s about to take off, yet doesn’t completely, opting for the explosion to happen purely electronically. But upon repeated listens, I like the dark, dreamy mood in creates. Finally, there’s “A Sky Full of Stars”, the obvious single and the most Coldplay track here. Martin, in the early stages of propelling another of his classic, cheesy, star-gazing songs announces “Now I don’t care/Go on and tear me apart/I don’t care if you do”. It’s as if Chris Martin is saying “listen, this is me, this is what I do well, people love it, and I’m going to go for it”. And he does, unabashedly. So it’s with full transparency that I admit that the poppiest and most accessible song on this album is also my favorite.

I’m not going to overly laud the album because it breaks basically no new ground. The album feels introverted and shy, which is probably what you’d expect from a post-breakup Chris Martin. It’s a pleasant album, perfectly fine, yet not spectacular. But for the Coldplay fans, I think they’ll like it just fine. When they want the creative, expansive version of Coldplay they—we—can still reach for Viva la Vida, but Ghost Stories will now sit there for the quieter moments, like Parachutes for a new decade.