Here they are:
"Blue Jeans" by Lana Del Rey: With the seemingly mundane titles Lana Del Rey chooses for her songs ("Video Games", "Diet Mtn. Dew", "Blue Jeans"), you would think that people who don't know Lana Del Rey's material might dismiss it easily because of how the titles of her songs come off. As the saying goes, though, still waters run deep (and thankfully, largely due to word of mouth on the Internet, there are more Lana Del Rey fans now than I would have thought possible). Like Lana's last successful song, "Video Games", "Blue Jeans" is a dark, smoky, alt-pop ballad about a relationship gone sour. The moody and hypnotic, but still pop-y atmosphere of songs like "Blue Jeans" seem to put Lana in the current position of Florence Welch's "little sister", musically speaking. Doesn't mean LDR can't rise above that position, though!
"Ghosts" by The Head and The Heart: The bittersweet neo-folk-rock of The Head and The Heart's "Lost In My Mind" and "Down In the Valley" caught on immediately with the indie and adult alt crowds! The Head and The Heart's latest song to get attention, "Ghosts", seems to be taking a little longer to catch on, but its on its way. Musically, "Ghosts" is a rarity in contemporary popular music, in that it changes key from B flat minor in the verses to D minor in the chorus (and it switches yet again to F major later on in the song). Name one other song from the past 50 or so years with as much of an abrupt key change! "Ghosts" isn't exactly a bittersweet song as much as it is like a jaunty, honky-tonk style version of Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky". Definitely different than most songs you're likely to encounter these days, but that's a good thing, right?!
"How Do I Know?" by Here We Go Magic: "Here We Go Magic" is quite an apt name for a band with a sound that is as upbeat and innocent as it is swirly and psychedelic! A chunky, pulsating electric guitar draws the listener in initially, and as soon as the vocals kick in, the "magic" of "How Do I Know?" starts up! A relentlessly happy drumbeat backs up the guitars, as lead vocalist Luke Temple yearningly asks "How do I know that I love you?", "How do I know that I know you?", and similar questions to lure in the listener even more than they already are! An echoing, prog-rock-y Moog synthesizer hook that sounds like it was lifted directly from Van Morrison's "Wavelength" kicks in at about a minute into "How Do I Know?", continuing the mesmerizing, magical mystery tour of this song! Truly a wonder to behold!!
"1904" by The Tallest Man On Earth: Yeah, hate to burst your bubble, folks, but "The Tallest Man On Earth" is NOT Shaquille O'Neal's folk-rock alter ego!! It is, instead, the stage name of Swedish folk-rocker Kristian Mattson (which, personally, I prefer, as I've never been a sports person). Don't let the title fool you either, it's not a sequel to Phoenix's similarly titled "1901" (that new wave-y song from a couple years ago with the "fallin', fallin', fallin', fall-innn..." chorus). Now that you know what "1904" is NOT, let me tell you what it IS! "1904" is a song with surreal lyrics and quirky, yet memorable vocal delivery. His unusual but still hauntingly beautiful guitar tuning in this song (and most of his material, apparently) hearken back to the original folk-rock generation, particularly Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, the latter of whom is a huge influence on The Tallest Man On Earth. Not exactly sure what The TMOE means by the refrain of "since they shook the Earth in 1904", but perhaps lines like that are better left to the imagination to interpret.
"Only For You" by Heartless B*st*rds: The name of this band might sound a bit intimidating to some, but the origin of their name is more humorous than it is disdainful (it comes from how a contestant on a game show thought that "Heartless B*st*rds" was the name of Tom Petty's backing group!!) Their sound isn't bad either, almost like Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon joining a roots-y, country influenced indie group. Their first big song, "Parted Ways" showed a rougher, more ragged side to Heartless B*st*rds, so it seems fitting, in a way, that they followed it up with a "ballad" with "Only For You". "Only For You" still has that "tough country" sound to it, but it definitely has a sweeter sound to it than "Parted Ways". One more thing to add that I thought would be worth pointing out, is that this band, along with fellow roots-y indie rockers Alabama Shakes, both have lead singers who sound like men with tenor vocals (to me, at least), when in fact, they are women! I don't suppose that's becoming a trend, is it?!
"Sunshine" by Matisyahu: A Jewish reggae musician?! Now I've seen everything! Of course, Matisyahu's fans are familiar with this aspect about him, and that seems to be part of what makes him so appealing! But it's also how simultaneously inspirational and catchy Matisyahu makes his songs that has gotten him so many fans. "Sunshine" is no exception to the rule. It's sunny, optimistic vibe has arrived just in time for summer! Lyrics like "reach for the sky, keep your eye on the prize" would probably sound cliche from any other musician, but Matisyahu manages to make it work, in such a way that it almost sounds like he invented those sorts of phrases! Next time you hit the beaches and there's a dance party going on, expect to hear this song!
"That Time Is Gone" by The dB's: One of the premiere acts in the "college rock" scene of the 1980's, The dB's seemed to be more of a "cult act" than one that scored any major hits (or minor hits, for that matter). But, as the title of this song indicates, "That Time Is Gone", and after ummm...what...30 years?!?...the dB's finally have a song that's getting them noticed beyond their core audience! I guess good things really DO come to those who wait!! My first impression of this song was that it combined the quirkily energetic keyboards of Elvis Costello's songs with the jangly alt-rock guitars of the typical R.E.M. song. R.E.M. and Costello are both some of my all-time faves! If the dB's material usually sounds like that, then I honestly don't see why they weren't such a big hit back in their day!! This song and the Here We Go Magic song are probably my two faves of this week. Highly recommended!!
"The Way We Are" by Scars on 45: A British alt-pop band with "soft rock" influences and lofty harmonies? Sounds like I'm describing Coldplay or Keane at first, doesn't it? Nope! I'm actually describing Scars on 45, a band whose more guitar-oriented approach to Britpop sounds closer to Snow Patrol or Travis than it does to Coldplay or Keane. Their previous two songs that garnered attention in the adult alt world, "Give Me Something" and "Heart On Fire", both became huge hits among that audience. "The Way We Are" seems to have the same formula as those two songs: laid-back yet pensive harmonies and neo-folk-rock instrumentation, so it won't surprise me if this becomes a huge hit for Scars on 45 as well (though so far it has some catching up to do). Somehow, even though Scars' songs sound similar to each other, they manage to win me over each time! Maybe it's just "The Way (They) Are"!! (rimshot)