here they are:
"Coming Home" by Leon Bridges: The term "neo-soul" has been applied to many musicians, but there are only a few whom I really believe deserve the label. Newcomer to the scene, Leon Bridges, is one such person. His brand of soul music hearkens back to a time when Motown was a fledgling genre and record label, as it heavily evokes the music of soul legend, Sam Cooke. Leon's smooth crooning combined with the blues-y but breezy guitar he sings over is enough to make Cupid actually want to draw back his bow and let his arrow go!
"Don't Wanna Fight" by Alabama Shakes: One of the most anticipated singles of the week, and also one of the funkiest!! Alabama Shakes are (currently) best known for their first big hit, "Hold On", which blended Janis Joplin-esque vocals with Creedence Clearwater-style guitar playing. In "Don't Wanna Fight", Brittany Howard takes her musical time machine a few years after the Woodstock era, and into the funk era of the mid 1970's. Howard loudly and proudly proclaims that she "don't wanna fight no more" throughout the song. Since I don't know the song well enough yet, I'm not exactly sure what it is that she's fighting for (or against), but this is a song that is clearly more about the rhythm than it is about the lyrics, as far as I'm concerned. Get your groove on!!
"Every Other Freckle" by alt-J: The nerdily named alt-J have actually been pretty cool ever since their debut, but it seems as though the songs from their sophomore record are the ones that adult alt radio has gravitated towards the most so far. The guitar heavy, Black Keys-esque "Left Hand Free" became one of summer 2014's biggest hits on adult alt stations. As spring approaches, "Every Other Freckle" is the song such radio stations seem to be picking up on. The song returns to the hip-to-be-quirky style that alt-J have become known for, which "Left Hand Free" seemed to lack. The lyrics in the song are also a bit enigmatic. For instance, I have no idea what they mean by "I want every other freckle". That's just fine, though, as this is just the way alt-J's fans seem to like them.
"False Hope" by Laura Marling: Laura Marling could easily be likened to a modern-day Joni Mitchell. If albums like "A Creature I Don't Know" and "Once I Was An Eagle" are her "Blue" and "Ladies of the Canyon", then perhaps her latest album, "Short Movie" is what "Court and Spark" was for Joni Mitchell. That is, a chance for Laura to experiment with electric guitars while still keeping up her folk-rock image. "False Hope" is the first Laura Marling song I have heard that uses electric guitar instead of acoustic. The chorus to "False Hope" is rather cutting for someone known for her quaint and quiet material ("why I know false hope", as if to say, "I've been down before, so leave me alone!") Again, the "Court and Spark" comparison could continue, since Joni had rather scathing lyrics on songs like "Raised On Robbery" ("first he had a '57 Biscayne, put it in the ditch, he drunk up all the rest, that son of a b**ch"). Laura is definitely trying to move in a darker direction with "False Hope", as far as I can tell, and a more musically distinct direction, too.
"Fool For Love" by Lord Huron: Lord Huron are probably one of the dreamiest sounding indie-folk bands of the 2010's. The first 45 seconds of their latest song, "Fool For Love", are pure bliss. Once the vocals kick in, it starts to sound more like a typical Lord Huron song, but it still maintains its blissful, ethereal sound. Many of their songs could obliquely be considered love songs, but "Fool For Love" is the first song they've done where the affection is clearly spelled out (as if you couldn't tell from the title). I notice that this song was released a couple days after Valentine's Day. I wonder if Lord Huron did that on purpose?!
"I Don't Want to Let You Down" by Sharon Van Etten: Sharon Van Etten's songs are known for being somewhat dismal and lonely sounding. That being said, could "I Don't Want to Let You Down" be an indicator that she has finally found happiness?! First of all, the song is in a major key, unlike most of her material, and it sounds more upbeat than the rest of her material, too. As if that wasn't enough of a not-so-indie move for the only indie-folk singer to share my mom's first name, she has also performed the song on Ellen DeGeneres' show, and rumor has it that this song was inspired by the feel-good '80s family flick, "Overboard" (one of my guilty pleasures!!) Rest assured, though, the song still feels mellow and folk-y enough to be considered legit in Sharon Van Etten's catalog, and her signature moaning vocals are still present on this track as well.
"Kathleen" by Catfish and The Bottlemen: Between their European sounding name and their similarity in sound to some of the harder rocking Oasis songs, one of the first things I wondered about Catfish and The Bottlemen when I first heard their song "Kathleen" was whether or not they were British. Well, it turned out I was close! They are a Welsh group. You don't hear the phrase "Welsh garage rock" or even "Welsh alternative rock" very often, so perhaps Catfish and The Bottlemen are trendsetters in this regard (only time will tell). The chorus of the song, in which lead singer Van McCann defiantly states, "I've gotta give it to you, you give me problems!" also seems typical of the garage rock genre. I wonder what other musical treasures Wales has to offer us!
"Leaf Off/The Cave" by Jose Gonzalez: In the 2010's, Jose Gonzalez has been active with his band, Junip, but he hasn't done anything solo since 2008. Though Junip was a good band, I much prefer the gentle, Nick Drake-esque brand of folk-rock that Jose had by himself. His latest solo song, "Leaf Off/The Cave" returns to the magic Jose did by himself during the mid to late 2000's. From its enchanting sound to its hopeful lyrics ("let the light lead you out"), "Leaf Off/The Cave" is bound to be a winner among Jose's biggest fans, and then some. Don't be fooled by the title. First of all, it has nothing to do with Mumford and Sons' "The Cave" as I thought it did before I actually heard it, and "Leaf Off/The Cave" is actually one song, not two, in spite of how the title makes it look. I regularly try to look for songs I can listen to to calm me down, but this is one of the most calming I have heard in quite awhile! Highly recommended!!
"Pedestrian At Best" by Courtney Barnett: Wait, which "Courtney" IS this?! Courtney Barnett or Courtney Love?! It kinda sounds like the vocals of the former mixed with the music and mood of the latter!! From Barnett's "Avant Gardener", I expected all of her songs to sound kinda deadpan, but "Pedestrian At Best" is anything but! It has an almost punk rock sound, with its defiant guitar playing, one-chord verses, and two-chord chorus, which is somewhat derivative of the early Kings of Leon tune, "Molly's Chambers". Barnett's sing-speaking and ranting vaguely recall Mike Muir's paranoid, enraged vocal style in Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized"! I haven't seen anyone go from mellow to angry this quickly since Marianne Faithfull (likely one of Courtney Barnett's influences)!!
"Take My Love" by The Lone Bellow: So far, "Take My Love" is the closest that folk-rockers, The Lone Bellow, have gotten to electric guitar oriented music, but the Bellow have still kept their mellow on this one. It seems like sounding like Bruce Springsteen has become a rite of passage for many indie-folk/indie-pop bands lately (Killers, Hold Steady, Gaslight Anthem, War on Drugs, and Arcade Fire all rank among them). This is probably the first Springsteen-esque song that The Lone Bellow have attempted. It not only sounds like one of The Boss's songs, but it also seems to echo the passion and honest lyrical content that he usually had.
"What Kind of Man" by Florence and The Machine: Flo and her magic Machine are truly one of the most eclectic bands to have emerged in the 2010's. Their blend of folk, rock, soul, gospel, and new wave has been unmatched so far! Their eclecticism seems to come full circle in "What Kind of Man", which starts as a whispery, dark hymnal, but quickly turns into the sort of new wave-y dance-rock song you might expect from INXS, or perhaps even Prince. Guitar isn't usually a central instrument in Florence and The Machine's music, but it takes on a very important role in "What Kind of Man" from the first minute on. "What kind of man loves like this?" Flo implores throughout the chorus. The more important question is, "What kind of man (or woman) doesn't love this music?!"