Popspotting Post: New Music Review – Summer 2012
New Popspotting podcasts are still a few months away, but thanks to a Spotify subscription, I’ve been hearing a lot of new music that I want to share.
I consider Spotify some kind of minor miracle. For a long time, I’ve been the cranky old lady who doesn’t listen to anything made in this decade. Still, there are a few contemporary artists who excite me and make me want to listen to more artists like them.
I’ve caught up with artists I’ve enjoyed before as well, like Glen Hansard.
“Rhythm and Repose” [Spotify, Amazon] is the debut solo album from the Frames frontman. Hansard went on to star in the indie musical “Once” and perform on the movie soundtrack, which contains original songs as well as covers of a few Frames’ songs. Hansard is also half of the duo The Swell Season.
Hansard is a master of melody. He manages to infuse his songs, which are largely quiet, somber ballads, with a groove. The track “Sleeping” from the Swell Season’s debut album lodges itself in my head quicker than anything on the radio lately. A few tracks on the “Once” soundtrack also achieve earworm status.
In “Rhythm and Repose,” it seems Hansard is flirting with classical structure. The instruments are lush; the melodies more complex. As a consequence, there are fewer of the hooks that keep me going back to the Once soundtrack. The lovely “Maybe Not Tonight” has the highest earworm potential. It reminds me of a country duet from the 70’s. The jazzy “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” is also groovy and reminiscent of Van Morrison.
I fell in love with the “Once” soundtrack instantly. I enjoy “Rhythm” a lot, but it’ll take me a few listens to fully appreciate it, I think. I believe that this is an intensely personal album. Its lyrics, like those in “Races”, seem to describe a period of contemplation and pain. The chorus of Races states “You never loved me”. I feel as if I’m peeking into someone’s diary.
Frank Ocean’s “channel ORANGE” [Spotify, Amazon] debuted at Number 2 this week. Ocean came out earlier this month. His announcement grabbed headlines and possibly piqued a lot of curiosity. Indeed, I was curious, because very little R&B from the past decade has interested me, and all of the reviews I’d read raved about “channel ORANGE,” praising its fresh, unique sound.
I love this album. Ocean is doing something different here, but he’s framing it in a familiar sound that I love. The track “Pyramids” is delightfully weird; almost nerdy, but contains irresistible hooks. It’s a throwback in the best possible way. Ocean clearly loves 70’s R&B even more than I do, but he loves contemporary R&B too and has a way to marry them seamlessly.
Ocean namechecks Forrest Gump in a track that features a subtle but infectious guitar lick. It sounds so different from “Pyramids,” which sounds nothing like “Bad Religion,” which reminds me of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” with its organ-heavy opening.
This album has really made me reevaluate my listening habits. I’m wondering what R&B gems I’ve missed these past few years.
- “Settle Down” by No Doubt. Love it. It’s surprisingly complex, insanely catchy, and fun. Maybe my favorite song of theirs.
- “Runaways” by The Killers. Not as edgy as previous efforts. Sounds like Gaslight Anthem. Still, pretty good. Some people might accuse The Killers of selling out, but it sounds like a natural evolution to me.