September in Music
Now that I have Spotify I am back to my insane music consuming ways. I am literally listening to music from 8am to 4pm and then 10pm to 12am. It's a solid obsession. Here are some of the albums that came out in September that I have really been enjoying.
1989 by Ryan Adams
The year is 2015. And a cover album is being made of an album produced in October of 2014. Far from letting the album becoming a classic, this cover album indicates the dramatic appeal of Taylor Swift's latest addition to her music career.
I live tweeted 1989 the first three times that I listened to it. The apparent issues with the album remain in Adam's quite beautiful version. On the whole, the songs were the most repetitive and weakest of Swift's career. But Adams does something that never fully occurs, he gives the album "feels."
It is obvious that Ryan Adam's version is what Taylor Swift should have created originally. Instead we got a completely head over heels pop music number that numbed some really good lyrics. "Blank Space" and "Style" are infinitely better than anything on Swift's 1989. "Out of the Woods" has a classic Radiohead vibe that makes the song stomachable. The middle of the album muddles for me. "Shake It Off," "I Wish You Would," and "Bad Blood" are just eh. The weakness of the lyrics is propped up by the very thoughtful renditions Adam provides. "Wildest Dreams" reminds us that a good Swift song under Adams is enjoyable.
My kids love Swift. I'll probably still appreciate her version better because cotton candy tastes better with syrup on top.
Django & Jimmie by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson
This album came out in June. It really shouldn't be on this list. I was slow getting to it, but I have not been disappointed. If you want to know where all the good country was hiding, look no further. It is right here on this album.
If you don't like country albums with play on words and detailed stories than you might not make it past the first five tracks. "It's All Going to Pot" doesn't take itself seriously. "Unfair Weather Friend" and "Live This Long" hit all the right notes when sung by haggard voices. There is a funniness and honesty that only lifetime musicians can afford to record.
New renditions of old classics like "Don't Think Twice" and "Family Bible" are nice but don't feel essential. This album does not get anywhere near my top favorites from Willie Nelson. But like with the final few CDs from Johnny Cash, it is fascinating to hear the songs Willie and Merle determined worth singing. The songs have to be listened to through the lens of long careers. This isn't just music you can approach with a clean slate. Highly recommended for fans of real country.
Every Open Eye by CHVRCHES
I am new to the CHVRCHES bandwagon. I discovered them last year a full year after their debut album dropped. I have always had a place for house/dance/techno music. Toss in a Scottish accent and I was hooked. More recently, I have followed as "Never Ending Circles" and "Leave A Trace" were released as singles. They are catchy songs that are the first indicator CHVRCHES has gone a little more pop on this album. The album starts with a punch, but the beats certainly feel like they are relegated to the background this time around. They are rounded out and smoother.
The first standout moment of punchy beats occurs late in "Clearest Blue" while songs like "Make Them Gold" would not have existed on their previous effort. "Empty Threat" and "Bury It" contain a little of the angst that set their debut apart. The album ends with a soft and touching "Afterglow" that concludes a very different style from CHVRCHES. The pacing of lyrics is smoother as well. The melodies are sharper and quite good.
No single track comes close to the hard and fast beats of The Bones Of What You Believe. It does not have raw or angry vibes. Perhaps this is a sign of overproducing. Or perhaps this is the result of a different song-writing approach. The entire structure of songs seems to be vastly different in Every Open Eye. And I say this in a good way. The songs themselves, including the melodies, are significantly better this time around.
I might have hesitated in the past to introduce CHVRCHES to people. I will be much quicker to recommend this album while relegating it to 2nd place in CHVRCHES' small discography.
Sorry By Meg Myers
Before two weeks ago, I had no idea who Meg Myers was. I will confess I still don't. I've merely been listening to this new album that Spotify thought I would enjoy. I am getting old and I don't really feel like I know what genre of music this is. I believe though it falls close to something called "grunge pop" or "pop grunge." I don't know what the cool kids are saying these days.
There is a dark, driving element to the pop music that I guess fits the genre description. "Sorry" is a great example. I think this once was just called rock. "I Really Want Your To Hate Me" is a great example how the dark/angsty lyrics are not whining but an active rebellion in music form. There is a "treat me like an adult" vibe to the entire album.
Apparently "Lemon Eyes" is a popular song. It reminds me of Avril Lavigne with less whiney singing. There is a distinct punk element that surfaces occasionally on the album. But there are very clear genre breaking songs including "Make a Shadow" (sounds like yodeling at times) and "The Morning After" (a slow burner).
Adult themed lyrics exists throughout the album. It is a very intentional "treat us as adults" in this recent rash of female grunge pop artists. The album will certainly find itself played, but I'm not sure about the regularity.
Badlands by Halsey
Here is another example of this female driven dark-genre. This is actually the album that I got hooked on that led to the Meg Myers recommendation.
Halsey is set to be at ACL and I've got free tickets. I thoroughly enjoy this album despite it's deliberate "treat us as adults" vibe. Halsey has the same edgy lyrics. The entire song "Young God" makes me sigh, cry, and laugh. The psychological distortion required to sing these songs with any sincerity is weird. Redeeming the entire album is the atmospheric dance blend that runs throughout the album. I enjoy this as background music as well as casual listening. Focus too hard and you will definitely be wondering "why?" about lyrics. They are sometimes out there and provocative in a senseless way.
"Hold Me Down" and "Roman Holiday" are grippingly good songs. "Castle" provides a dark driving sound that open the album well. "Colors" has a lighter musical backdrop, but that same heavy lyrics associated with this genre. "Haunting" brings back some of the atmospheric dance. "Control" does something familiar but with a darker scale that just tickles the background of the verses.
Badlands is an album that I admittedly listen to a lot. It just has a vibe to it that pulls me in to repeat listens. Too bad this seems to be the future of music. The edgy to be edgy, self-glorifying "let me prove I'm an adult" genre will hopefully not last long.