New Release Tuesday :: My Top 5 :: June 3, 2014

1. Birdy :: Fire Within


Birdy’s Sophomore album starts with the breathtaking Bon Iver cover of Skinny Love that I have been in love with since I heard it on the “Deluxe” version of her self-titled debut. I can’t count how many times I have slipped it into a playlist, or how that cover led me to play, and replay, the rest of her music. Her voice is complex, angelically light and vulnerable at one moment, heavy and dark the next. Her songwriting is the same. Heartbreaking at one moment, hopeful the next.

Wings is my favorite track on the album, co-written by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, it is powerful and soaring and full of so much longing. As the chorus builds I feel a pain in my chest and the sting of tears in my eyes, the collision of memories and wishes hitting hard as I turn it up louder and sing-a-long.

Light Me Up has Florence and the Machine sensibilities, showcasing the power of Birdy’s voice with each lift and build. No Angel is another favorite of mine, a quieter moment of piano and vocals, delicate, self-confessing and lyrically wise beyond her 17 years (I keep forgetting how young she is). All You Never Say, co-written by Dan Wilson (who penned Adele’s Someone Like You) has all the makings of a breakup anthem that becomes a go-to for anyone going through the misery of heartbreak. Strange Birds is definitely my second favorite, haunting and cinematic, the kind of song that I want to write vivid and emotionally layered story-scenes to.

This is one of those album exceptions – when the sophomore album is as strong, if not stronger, than the debut. Birdy, and this album, are ones to watch.


2. LP :: Forever For Now


At first listen I am reminded of Neko Case and Robyn, with a side of Shakira and Feist and a little of Tegan and Sara, and if that sounds confusing it actually isn’t, because somehow the mix of folk, indie rock, and pop works here. LP (Laura Pergolizzi), born in New York and transplanted to Los Angeles, credits Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell, The Pretenders, Nirvana and The Doors as her musical loves and influences. She has also had her hand in a few pop hits, such as Rihanna’s Cheers (Drink to That), which she co-wrote. With all of that to consider I get why her sound and style spans across so many genres.

Into the Wild, the song that grabbed people’s ears and attention when Citibank used it in their 2011 advertisements (though I don’t recall hearing it, but then again, working in advertising makes me avoid commercials at all cost), is my standout favorite on the album. It is powerful, emotional, soaring and the kind of unforgettable that sticks in your ears long after the song ends.

Forever For Now, the title song/last song on the album is another stand out to me. I love the Western-movie whistle, the guitar strum, and the chilling darkness in her voice that at times feels unearthly. Her vocal range is nothing short of incredible. This track is meant to a climactic moment in film, or as the backdrop of a beloved character’s death. What a dramatic end to an album, leaves me haunted and wanting more.

The album could be criticized for being a little to perfect, yet the perfection of it is not of the auto-tuned/over-produced variety, nor does it come off as contrived. I think it is more a wish for a little more stripped down, rawness that you just know Laura’s voice could take on in a powerfully, moving and marvelous way – or maybe that’s just how I feel about it. Regardless, this is a fantastic debut album – highly listenable, and then some.

Into the Wild

3. The Shoe :: I’m Okay


Musical project The Shoe, which is the pairing of actor Jena Malone and pianist/producer Lem Jay Ignacio is something completely unexpected in the best way. Lyrically it is like a blog post, a diary page, a conversation or text messaged exchange with a best friend, a string of Twitter-fed confessions, and in it, in the simplicity, there is some kind of poetry, too. I am reminded of early Rilo Kiley and Exile-era Liz Phair, and Minor Alps (Juliana Hatfield’s project with Matthew Caws). There is a little Regina Spektor here, as well as The Blow, too.

The opening track/title track, I’m Okay, had me in its clutches immediately. Heartbroken, and led along by Google maps and texts not sent, there is something so familiar in the way it feels to drive around post-breakup, emotions flying between anger and sadness and wishing you could say something else to make it go away, or get better. There is a sense of being lost, and being okay with being lost, in the lyrically told story, and it had me wanting to hear more after the first refrain.

Broken Hearted Love Song is another first listen favorite. Raw and real, like I said before, this feels like a conversation you’ve had with a friend, or a lover, set to music. I also have a somewhat ridiculous love of hearing the word “fuck” sung, I don’t know why, maybe you could blame my parochial school upbringing and the taboo of the word (and the giddy joy of breaking the rules), but it is a random favorite thing of mine. His Gorgeousness and Paper Cup are vulnerable and wonderful, and musical representations of what attraction and desire and crushes feel like inside.

Dead Rabbit Hopes is mysterious. It is one of those songs that I want to explore further, play over-and-over again, and write something to it. There is a sensuality to it, and an undefined darkness that permeates the initial sweetness that dances at the surface.

The band name, The Shoe, comes from a contraption Jena Malone fashioned out of a trunk that holds several electronic instruments. I hope this “contraption” goes on tour soon, and releases a few more gems like this album in the future.

Dead Rabbit Hopes

4. James Bay :: Let It Go


I’ve had my eyes, and ears, on James Bay’s music since I first heard When We Were On Fire, and his debut EP Dark Side of the Morning. James participated in the 10 Questions Project here at Lyriquediscorde and I was lucky to catch him play with ZZ Ward at the House of Blues last year. Ever since, I’ve been waiting to hear what he produced next. Let It Go is a new EP that is just as stunning as Dark Side of the Morning was, full of post-love songs that peel back regrets and reexamine all the “what went wrongs” when you have not quite gotten over your ex-lover yet.

Heavy Handed is my first favorite, heavy hearted more than handed, aching and wistful and overflowing with “what could have been” sentiment that resonates with me deeply. Running is wonderful, too. It plays soulful and is stylistically deep in gospel sensibilities, painfully perfect in vocal delivery — I especially like when James takes his voice into the lower register which hits on an emotional depth that is so beautiful it hurts to listen to.

The squeak on guitar strings in Hear Your Heart is another of my random musical loves. It is a sound that sends me reeling in the best of ways, reminding me of times spent listening to a lover strum his guitar over the phone when distance and miles were between us, or while lying next to him as he played a newly penned song.

Let It Go reminds me of what I fell in love with last year, and I will say again, James Bay is one to keep an eye (and ear) on. If you are in the Los Angeles area, go check him out at School Night @ Bardot on June 9th, or at the Hotel Cafe on June 10th.

Let It Go (live)

5. The Orwells :: Disgraceland


Though it is garage rock that the Chicagoan band, The Orwells, seem to be constantly labeled, it is psychedelic-rock style and sound of The Doors that hits me hard when I listen to Disgraceland. I swear, at times it seems like lead singer Mario Cuomo is actually channeling Jim Morrison. There is something older sounding here, something from the late 60’s/early 70’s that strikes me more than the comparisons to The Strokes and Black Keys do.

The album is addictive. It makes me want to test the limits of my car stereo speakers, see how loud I can actually get them before damage is done, roll down the windows, push past the speed limit, and scream-sing-a-long. This is definitely a heavy rotation album for the Summer.

Bathroom Tile Blues is my favorite, so far. The lyrics are sexy at times (“I’ll only do you right/another neck to bite/another heart beating in my head”), biting and bitter at others, especially in terms of “life on the road” (“I mess up every time/committed every crime/go to a hotel room to hide”), and catchy as hell.

Let It Burn is another early listen favorite of mine. It reminds me of Green Mind era Dinosaur Jr., and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain Pavement. There is an early-mid 90’s feel that brings with it a dose of nostalgia, but not enough to take away from their core sound. It is more influence than replication, in the way it plays.

North Ave. ends the album in a mood and beat that makes it feel like it should be the start of something. Maybe that is clever in intent, because as soon as the track ends I am left waiting and wanting more. It is this song that I do see The Strokes comparison (or maybe an American Libertines is more like it), but again, it feels more like influence than anything else.

Pick this one up to add to your Summer listening collection – you won’t regret it.

2 thoughts on “New Release Tuesday :: June 3, 2014

  1. I like Jena’s Malone’s project, no idea she was making music now. Years ago she would upload herself singing on youtube, but they weren’t promising. Pleasant surprise, more than that really. Beautiful, she’s so creative & interesting. Going to share with my friend Amy. Thank you for posting.

    1. Thanks for reading/listening. I was surprised how good it is…the entire album is wonderful!!! I agree, she is so creative and interesting…please do share.

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