Welcome back to Songs of the Week! Roman numerals are hard, and I'm very glad we've transitioned to a number system that makes more sense. Submit songs in the comments, on Facebook, or by email. The playlist can be found here, and the archival playlist here.
Anderson .Paak - The Bird
Intro track off .Paak's sophomore project "Malibu." Drawing from hip-hop, soul, and R&B influences; his wonderful voice carries a story of fighting through the struggles of his early life by following the inspiration of the greats. Smooth guitar riffs and piano chords take the background to Paak's incredibly powerful voice. A rising star in music today, if you haven't listened to any of his work I'd recommend it 10 times out of 10. His command over songs is incredible.
Foxing - The Medic
Favorite track coming out of my current favorite band in Foxing, an indie post rock band from St. Louis Missouri. They put on the best live show I have been to in recent years and are something different enough to enjoy but still be somewhat fresh. Great band great track.
30 Seconds to Mars - Kings & Queens
I didn't put this song in because it's a favorite of mine, but because it took me at least 5 years since I last listened to this band to realize the singer is the actor Jared Leto, or as I knew him Paul Allen, the man who gets his face axed off in "American Psycho." And I never made that connection. Pretty good song/band though.
Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar - Never Catch Me
Perhaps the ultimate hip-hop duo. Next to Run the Jewels this collab is one of the most powerful and effective ones out there. Kendrick brings a lot of energy to an expected artistic and surreal background provided by the genius himself Flying Lotus.
U2 and Greenday - The Saints are Coming This is a very good song. I like it because it is good.
Panic! At the Disco - Miss Jackson I'm generally not a big fan of Panic! At the Disco but I am a very big fan of this song.
Bruno Mars - When I Was Your Man I like this song. That is why I chose to share it.
Lukas Graham - 7 Years
This is a song I've recently discovered, and I have to say, it's become one of my favorites. Not just because of Forchammer's distinctive voice, but because this song is about him reminiscing his past and the life choices he made.
Ruth B. - Lost Boy
This song is interesting in that the singer takes the story of Peter Pan and relates it to her love life. Her vocals are also a pleasure to listen to.
G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha - Me, Myself, and I
Oh gosh, this song has rubbed off on me because of Bebe's singing part. Definitely one of the catchiest hooks I've ever heard in a song. No matter how many times I've listened to it, I'm still not sick of it.
The Magnetic Fields - Grand Canyon
The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs is known for being overall very satirical and humorous album from a very satirical and humorous band, making fun of the shortcomings of relationships, but some songs on it, like Grand Canyon, sound a bit more sincere. Grand Canyon is a relatively simple song - the entire song is only 105 words across three stanzas, the last stanza is a duplicate of the first, and 24 words are repeated across all three stanzas - but at the same time, it's very powerful. It has a very full sound, with what sounds like 5-7 instruments from different families playing while Stephen Merritt, backed by the other members of the band, gives a very wholesome delivery of the song's lyrics. The lyrics concern the speaker's devotion to another person - "If I was the Grand Canyon / I'd echo everything you say", " If I was Paul Bunyan / I'd carry you so far away" - which, as the speaker sings, is unfortunately not mutual - or at least isn't presently - but it's implied that it once was, hence the pleading nature of the song.
The Pop Group - Snow Girl
Like Grand Canyon, Snow Girl is a song of appreciation for another person, but right off the bat, it's clear that this is a bit different: the song leads with the words, "Set fire to yourself on a train," being quietly whispered, and the stanza ends with dissonant instruments and dissonant singing, giving you a nice feel of what the rest of the song is going to be like. In the song, the speaker compares the person of their affection to a snowman, singing, "I won't stamp on your coal eyes ... Snow girl, I burn you / Snow girl, I melt you / Your hair is on fire / When I touch you, you melt." It's a bit of a strange comparison, but it's an effective way of getting the message across.
The most interesting feature of the song, however, is the dissonant sound discussed earlier - the song is filled with abrupt changes in volume and melody and mildly funky lead and electric guitars with a wandering piano in the background; the voice of the lead singer, meanwhile, alternates between soft singing and manic screaming. As the song progresses, the vocals and instruments become more and more chaotic, and at many points, the keys on the piano are just being smashed seemingly randomly while the electric guitar goes wild in the background. All of the other songs on Y are the same way, probably peaking with Blood Money, so if you enjoy the dissonant music, be sure to check them out.
Waxahatchee - Noccalula
If you're into folk music, you've probably heard about the story of Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago. If you haven't, it goes like this: a man, heartbroken, retreats to a solitary cabin in Wisconsin after breaking up with his girlfriend, breaking up with his band, and re-evaluating his life, coming out with a very emotional album about his regrets at the end of the experience. It sounds a bit like fiction, but it's not. Waxahatchee's American Weekend was recorded in very much the same way, perhaps under less extreme circumstances, but nevertheless, the result is on about the same level of emotional intensity. Like For Emma, Forever Ago, American Weekend was recorded alone by Katie Crutchfield and is a look back on her life experiences.
Noccalula is an examination of Crutchfield's relationship with her seemingly ever-so-distant sister, Allison, as evidenced by the lyric, "Allison's only calling me when her life's falling apart." The song overall is ambivalent, taking a sad but accepting look at the situation accompanied by rather cheery piano playing and rather soulful singing. It has a low-fi feel to it, like the rest of the album, complementing and augmenting its recorded-an-album-of-regrets-alone-in-a-house-during-winter aesthetic. The lo-fi recording and simple, cheery piano also give off a bit of a nostalgic feel, like reminiscing of being at amusement parks with friends or family.
Courtney Barnett - History Eraser
I've been getting back into Courtney Barnett recently, and rediscovered one of my favorites of hers. It basically encompasses the feeling of being drunk, hence the title "History Eraser". Both the jumbled mess of surreal lyrics and the constant, reverbed, driving surf guitar add to the feeling of altered perception. The lyrics are a sort of stream-of-consciousness babbling that keeps going throughout and gives unnecessary and surreal details that one might notice when drunk. It is really a masterfully made song and encapsulates the feeling using all of the tools at its disposal.
Langhorne Slim & The Law - The Way We Move
Langhorne Slim has this really raw, real Americana feel that I just can't get over. With every song they really capture my attention and move me. This song in particular is like a sort of anthem for those whose lifestyles have been doubted, and gives those people something to rally around. It sounds like the kind of music that would play in a pub in a small town where everyone knows each other.
Elbow - The Birds This song makes me feel small, but in a good way. It's not for the reason I originally thought, however. At first hearing the first line, I assumed this was a song about the carefree life of a bird, flying above everyone and holding a place above all of us, literally and figuratively. When I listened further, I realized it's a song about reminiscing about the past. And old man is telling a story, and his caregivers are tired of hearing it. It gives a feeling of smallness because of the mortality of the old man and of the place of indifferent remembrance he has reached. He does not judge the affair he had, merely remembers it.