Thursday, August 7, 2014

High Fives for Summer: Music

As I've spent most of my summer cooped up in my apartment, occasionally doing laundry but mostly just reading, listening, and watching, I thought I might pass along the media highlights that I've come across. To do so, in this four-part blog series, I'll list five of my favorite TV shows, books, albums, and movies that I've consumed this summer, thus creating my "High Fives" for each medium.

(Below my "High Five," I've listed a few Honorable Mention albums; albums that have been on regular rotation though who knows if I'll be listening to them a year from now.)


It's been a slow year for music and the summer has not been much different. That said, it's not as though I've stopped listening to new music... that'd be ridiculous. Here are some albums I've been listening to a decent amount this summer.

Coldplay || Ghost Stories
May, 2014 || Alt-rock, Post-Britpop || Website
Being old friends, I was obviously going to give the new album a listen or two. And, well, it's not bad. After X&Y, I was starting to question my belief in these alt-rock-pop superstars but then Viva La Vida came along and contends for one of my favorite albums of theirs. Then the ultimately annoying Mylo Xyloto followed and made me question everything about them. And then, here we have Ghost Stories. Perhaps the most adult-contemporary of their albums. But then again, I'm just about a full-fledged adult so that's not inherently a bad thing, I guess. Track Midnight had a pretty awful music video and there were some fairly blatant rip-offs of Bon Iver but, hey, I love Bon Iver. Listening through the album with the lyrics in front of me didn't help but when played while driving, getting ready in the morning, or reading, this album works rather well. 
Stand-out Track: Ghost Story, Another's Arms

Ages and Ages || Divisionary
March, 2014 || Indie-folk, Raw choral pop || Website
Listed on Paste editor Josh Jackson's top songs of the year (so far) list, I checked out this yet unheard of Portland-based band and found them delightfully upbeat, choral (as the genre suggests), and filling my Of Monsters and Men / The Head and the Heart hipster-folk void. As with any album involving more than two people on vocals, the listener is invited to sing along and just about every song does that wonderfully.
Stand-out Track: Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)

Phantogram || Divisionary
February, 2014 || Electric rock || Website
I originally heard of these guys about four years ago as they opened for The Antlers at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. They definitely had a good, beats-produced sound to them and their first LP had some good tracks on it. When their follow-up released earlier this year, I gave the album a few spins in my office but moved on. As Jorjette has recently found a growing interest in indie-music (beyond allowing me to play whatever I'm currently listening to), she independently got into them and, once we bought tickets for their 9:30 Club show in D.C., we were hooked. The new album is certainly a major-label affair though, in my opinion, they needed a little more accessibility, making for a still off-kilter summer album. 
Stand-out Track: Fall in Love

Sam Smith || In the Lonely Hour
June, 2014 || Pop, Soul, R&B || Website
Remember when this guy performed on SNL earlier this year? It was kind of boring but he was intriguing, at the very least. Of course that Disclosure released single that he is featured on, Latch, is irresistible (with radio stations finally catching up, playing the track a year and a half after it released...). His single Stay with Me had Jorje and I hooked but then the album got mediocre reviews. The album finally released on Spotify, allowing us to get a full listen to the whole album. While there are still a few misses, album opener Money on My Mind is fantastic and his British R&B vocals soar throughout. 
Stand-out Tracks: Money on My Mind, Stay with Me

Sylvan Esso || s/t
May, 2014 || Electric, Indie folk || Website
Briefly introduced to their single, Coffee, via a mix CD a former co-worker gave to Jorjette, I was formally acquainted with this band when visiting friends Matt and Allison in NYC while playing Sorry in their living room. Looking at their genre, I'm a total sucker for anything slow-moving, ethereal but with a purpose.
Stand-out Track: Coffee

Honorable Mention: First Aid Kit, Kishi Bashi, How to Dress Well

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