here they are:
"Hopeful" by Josh Ritter: Just the title of this song alone indicates happiness, and its sound does, too, but such exuberant, upbeat emotional quality is not typical of Josh Ritter's mostly melancholy musical catalog. However, Josh's poetic persona is still present on "Hopeful", though, what with its reference to Alfred Lord Tennyson (the poet famous for saying, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all") during its opening lyrics. A lot of the lyrics of "Hopeful" are just that - hopeful. That is, except for the fact that the song ends with the lyrics, "Everybody's gonna hurt like hell sometimes". Way to switch the moods on us, Josh! Just kidding, this song is a good one any which way you look at it.
"Love Letter" by Clairy Browne and The Bangin' Rackettes: Somewhere between Amy Winehouse's authentic re-styling of '60s girl group soul and the more "white soul" flavor of bands like Fitz and The Tantrums is where the sound of Clairy Browne and The Bangin' Rackettes lies on the musical map. Clairy and The Rackettes' first big song, "Love Letter" (not to be confused with the Bonnie Raitt song of the same name), sounds like it actually could have been released sometime around 1965, and no one would know the difference! There have been many bands and musicians who have joined the "neo-soul" bandwagon since sometime in the mid 2000's, so I tend to be somewhat critical of it occasionally, since it has long passed its days of being a "unique" sound. However, I think that Clairy Browne and The Bangin' Rackettes have both a "retro" sound and passionate delivery that most musicians who are trying to revive pre-rap R & B tend to lack in their performances. This song just screams "retro" all over the place, really, from its colorful band name, to its amount of members, which come close to the amount that groups like Chicago and Sly & The Family Stone had!
"The War Within" by Churchill: When reviewing Churchill's breakthrough song, "Change", back in September of last year, I remarked that "Churchill" sounded more like the name of a folk-rock group than an alt-pop group. Perhaps "Change" was an anomaly for Churchill, though, since "The War Within" actually DOES sound like a folk-rock song, without all the disco and No Doubt-style influence that "Change" had. The guy-girl harmonies and banjo based sound can draw easy comparisons to groups like The Lumineers and The Civil Wars, which is not what I would have expected to hear from Churchill back when "Change" was a big song. "The War Within"'s message of having hope through the hard times and starting anew seems to make Churchill sound more like what the name of their group evokes in my mind, which is not a church, or a hill, but there is something about a name like "Churchill" that makes it sound kind of old-time-y. It would be nice to hear the band continue in this direction for their future material, but if they decide to go some other direction with it, then that's fine, too.