Greetings beautiful people! It is Christine yet again and I wanted this next post to be an ode to one of the most wonderful gifts the universe has bestowed upon us and one that transcends boundaries that sometimes life has the audacity to put within our paths and that thing is music. I almost want to treat this as a love letter, like one would pen to a significant other who has never let them down and continuously restores sanity where it clearly lacks. Or like a thank you to a true friend who no matter how many times distance tries to drive a wedge in between you two, they never leave your side. It’s an entity that provides solace and comfort and I really want to emphasize how much this has meant to me, especially at this time in my life. I have been away from home on-and-off for almost a year now and I will continue to be for about another as I finish up schooling at Gonzaga University. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Gonzaga is nestled with the confines of an evergreen valley in the scenic state of Washington. Yes, Washington as in, approximately 1,000 or so miles away from the palm tree-lined streets of my home in Los Angeles. I could lie and say that being away gets easier with time but I don’t think it ever fully does. What I do know is that anything that keeps you away from the people and place you love the most in the world can’t be simple no matter how resilient you want to be. So then what exactly do the pains of being far from home and music adoration have to do with one another? Well, in a significant way actually. I think it’s safe to assume that everyone has an artist, an album or a song that when they hear it, it resurges a feeling of a particular time, a place, a moment that meant something. The five albums that I wanted to focus on in this piece have not only been extremely therapeutic throughout my time here but are also cementing themselves as reminiscent blocks that every time they are returned to, they will always remind of this exact moment in my life. No matter where I may be in this world, music will always serve as the perfect travel companion which is why I felt the need to gush about what I’ve currently been listening to. These have all been released within this past year and have quickly become some of my favorites so if you haven’t done so, give ‘em a listen! I highly recommend each and every one and thanks for checking them out!
(In no particular order except for coincidentally alphabetical…)
1. AlunaGeorge – Body Music
I was introduced to AlunaGeorge by a dear friend this past summer and it’s one thing for me to listen to something and it not make much of an impact on me and then there’s times where I have to revisit it on my own to really make that judgment. AlunaGeorge definitely fell into the latter category. I put them in the back of my head after the first time I heard them but never fully forgot about them. I gave them another listen when I first got up here in September and I’ve been hooked since. AlunaGeorge is a duo composed of London natives Aluna Francis (singer/songwriter) and George Reid (producer). I was a bit hesitant to try and describe their sound because they do fall into the electronic music realm which is definitely not one of my fortes so I didn’t want my lack of knowledge to not do their music justice. Needless to say, I feel that it’s rare to have a complete album be perfection in its entirety but I would without a doubt categorize this one as being just that. Every single song is superb and its one of those albums you can play from beginning to end and be blown away by every track. I’m sure producers can add their two-cents about the overall composition of the songs but what I really love are songs that are easily understood and relatable and Aluna’s writing is accessible to everyone and not to mention her lovely voice with the cherry on top that is her even lovelier accent complimenting George’s rhythmic configurations. Anyone who knows me knows how staunch I am against a lot of the popular “EDM style” music because I just can’t identify with it and sure, it can be fun after my 3rd rum and coke, in a club, at 12am but other than that, I’m good. However, AlunaGeorge doesn’t feel like that kind of music to me I actually think it’s a happy medium that dives into the electronic music genre but still maintains a really laidback vibe. Did I mention they end the album with a little Montell Jordan cover? Oh yeah, that’s how AlunaGeorge does it.
2. Arctic Monkeys – AM
Sex. Just pure sex this album is. The Arctic Monkeys are an incredible British indie band that I fell in love with after hearing their 2007 album, Favourite Worst Nightmare (which I STRONGLY recommend, by far their best one) and to be honest, I didn’t feel like their other albums really measured up to that one until AM came out. Their first track, Do I Wanna Know?, is probably my favorite out of the entire album it literally drowns you in this magnificent sea of a guitar riff that you will not be able to get enough of. If you know me, you know how much I adore good irony and No. 1 Party Anthem sounds like a song LMFAO would totally crap-sing the shit out of but it’s actually one of the slower-paced songs on the album poking fun at self-proclaimed “party anthems” and it’s done beautifully. The next song, Mad Sounds, reminds me of something Lou Reed (R.I.P.) would have done with the Velvet Underground and as you will see later on in this post, I love the Velvet Underground and respect them so much and Alex Turner totally signaled his inner Reed for this undoubtedly. Comparing this album to Favourite Worst Nightmare, AM is not as energetic but it’s got such a sexy vibe to it that all you really need to do is put it on and lay sprawled on your bed, preferably in the dark, and let it have its way with you. Leave the morning-after shame at the door, by the way, nothing but pure euphoric bliss with this one.
3. Best Coast – Fade Away
These next two bands are no strangers to this blog and yes, I will hit you all over the head with my admiration for them one more time. Best Coast is the sun-dripped, So-Cal reppin’ indie duo fronted by Bethany Cosentino and backed by the great Bobb Bruno. This album is an EP they’ve recently released so be on the lookout for a full-length album very soon! I love Best Coast because while they have certainly gained much more popularity over the years and while I do notice production changes throughout their releases, they still maintain that perfect formula for simplistic, catchy tunes that read like a teenage girl’s diary. With this EP the evolution of Bethany’s song writing is really apparent (there’s one that almost goes to 5 minutes, can you imagine?!) and I do see them having a lot more substance than their earlier stuff. The first song I heard off of the EP was Fear of My Identity and that’s definitely one of my favorites. Bethany’s vocal range is becoming more and more broad and powerful and I think that song is a good example of that not to mention the really great drumming backing them provided by Bethany’s dad, Richard Cosentino. The next song is Fade Away and if you read my previous review of the Best Coast show at the El Rey Theatre, I compared it to Fade Into You by Mazzy Star and the more I listen to it the more I am reminded of that song. I know Best Coast wants to try to channel their inner 90’s, grunge brat with this new album and while I’m not entirely sure I see that throughout this whole EP, I’m almost certain it’ll make itself known within their full-length release. Definitely anticipating their new stuff to come!
4. Bleached – Ride Your Heart
If you’re craving a little throwback to ’95-esque mode of grrrrl group power, check out Bleached. I really hadn’t heard their stuff until I saw them over the summer with Best Coast but I was completely entranced by their stage performance I immediately had to dive into their music after I saw them. You might have first heard of the Clavin sisters from their Mika Miko days and as much as I enjoy punk in all its angsty glory, Bleached is a lot different from that. I enjoy getting a chance to hear Jennifer’s voice in a mellow tone that even though she’s not freakin’ Mariah or Beyoncé, it’s just so damn cute none the less. My absolute favorite song is Guy Like You, I literally had it on repeat for 24 hours straight once and I love it because it reminded me of really early Best Coast stuff. If any of you have ever heard the Make You Mine EP, that’s not too far off from what Guy Like You mirrors itself after, aside from an overuse of the lo-fi style. The uber simplicity of the song writing and the acoustic minimalism is seriously one of my favorite things about it and which makes it so appealing to listen to over and over again. They had also released a video for Love Spells around Halloween and it really couldn’t have been better timing because that song does have a haunting guitar riff that’s totally reminiscent of all things witchy. I think out of the five albums here, this is one that I’ve been listening to the most and where my Bleached love grows more each day. This is such a great garage rock album and if you get the chance to check these ladies out live, do so!!
5. Neko Case – The Worse Things Gets, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
Last, but certainly not least, I had to mention the wonderful woman that is Neko Case. I first heard about Neko through the New Pornographers who I’ve been listening to for years now and I’ve always loved Neko’s voice not to mention how absolutely stunning I think she is. My appreciation of Americana music has grown exponentially being up here in Spokane because it is so heavily engrained within the region. Americana music is a hybrid of country, folk, rock and bluegrass among other music deemed as having traditional “American” roots. I had seen a live performance of Night Still Comes and it literally gave me chills like, it’s just not possible to sound that amazing! Remember when I said I’d come back to my Velvet Underground love? Well, Neko sings Afraid by the original Chelsea Girl/Velvet Underground contributor herself, Nico. Neko covering Nico? Umm, yes please. It’s just as beautifully poignant as the original and it filled me with so much awe I’m struggling to even put into words how it makes me feel. Where Did I Leave That Fire is such a majestic song that intros into evocative piano and drum percussions that add so much to the already striking harmonies that Neko possesses in virtually all songs throughout this album. I can’t stress my fascination with this woman’s voice enough and if you ever doubt the sincerity of my veneration for it, listen to the a capella Nearly Midnight, Honolulu and even when she’s yelling to, “Get the fuck away from me”, you won’t want to. Neko needs no gimmicks to make an impact and I feel that she is a vestige of true artistry.