Have you ever heard a song and thought nothing of it until it is presented to you in a different medium then it is suddenly awesome?
There needs to be a study of this phenomenon. You could see the song come to life from of well-made music video, overhear it in a fitting commercial or come across it several times on on the radio.
Then, out of nowhere, you enjoy a seemingly inconsequential song: Ellie Goulding’s “Hanging On.” Beck’s “Wave.” Matt and Kim’s “Let’s Go.”
The more I’m introduced to widely used material that isn’t forced down my throat, the better. It’s nice to know the words to songs you never have to listen to on your own time.
Except for “Radioactive.” Let’s banish that song from existence.
Now to music. I know I said I was going to do more rock music this year, but that will come. The ladies are getting all the love this week.
Lykke Li – I Never Learn
Rating: Among the year’s best.
Ever since 2008’s poppy debut, Youth Novels, you could see the lines on Lykke Li’s face grow darker through her music. Her second album, Wounded Rhymes, revealed more of her moody side while retaining some upbeat elements. I Never Learn is something else entirely.
With her heart exposed all over the album, you can hear it break, shatter and mend in one of 2014’s standout releases. Ninety percent of music comes from the healing of wounds and scars, but it sounds like Lykke Li bled right onto the page for this one.
I’ve mentioned “Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone” before, but the raw nerves exposed through this masterclass of songwriting is spellbinding. “Heart of Steel” and “Sleeping Alone” are triumphant ways to end an incredible album.
You may hear about I Never Learn rather extensively throughout the year, but I cannot recommend enough.
Lily Allen – Sheezus
Rating: See album title.
The title track kicks off the album by throwing gauntlets all over the pop industry and discussing the ubiquity of PMS. This kind of song did not previously exist.
I know what Lily Allen is trying to do here. She refuses to be roped in with the likes of today’s pop stars and she will make sure everyone knows. But when you’re bogged down in describing everything you’re not, you can lose sight of who you are.
That’s what makes “Take My Place” and “As Long As I Got You” welcome additions to the album. I want to hear about what Allen has gone through to get to this point and her married life, not longing over empty media comments.
Lily Allen has always been good at presenting her music in crude, unconventional ways. This album still aims in that direction while also presenting a more domesticated view of her current lifestyle. It’s a strange balance.
Kina Grannis – Elements
Rating: Delicate and pure.
Remember the days of Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton and first-album Nelly Furtado? Those were innocent times.
I’ve already commented on a couple albums by uplifting singer-songwriters that fill similar roles today (Ingrid Michaelson, Christina Perri) and this lesser-known Kina Grannis was a great find. She’s 28, Japanese/European American and has a voice of honey.
I heard of her last week from a few singles floating around and this is one of those albums that, though produced to modernization, reminds me of the freedom of being young. Sunsets, trees, purity. I miss the days when life was suspended in time, yielding only to my will. Now it just plows ahead, dismantling everything in its path.
No musical barriers are broken with Elements, but there is solace in simplicity. “Forever Blue” puts a tear in my eye.
Updated Best of 2014 playlist:
Tech N9ne is the only artist I have ever encountered that puts out more music than I keep up with (and want to listen to). I considered reviewing “Strangeulation” this week but I’m so far behind on his career arc. It’s a full-time job keeping up with some of these guys.