Hi folks, the roundup is back after a week off (and announcement of Grammy nominations.) Check out what AW is listening this week…
What Michael Ward is listening to this week…
A Local Band: Curse of Cassandra (local being the Dayton, Ohio area)
Recently, I found out one of my college professors (who, during my career as a student, was instrumental in shaping me into the media-wonk I am today) is in a band. I was cautious at first, as I always am when somebody tells me “I’m in a band.” Those kinds of phrases—especially from people you like—can be a bit dreadful: “I’m in a band” or “I wrote a book/screenplay/poem” or “I have an opinion on this hot-button political issue.” Dreadful because there’s the very likely reality that whatever they’ve poured their heart and soul into, or whatever opinion they’ve labored (or often times, not labored) to come to, just won’t be that good. And that just makes things awkward for everybody. What a relief, then, when I actually heard Curse of Cassandra’s debut EP. It was a bit of a revelation, actually, in a year that has yielded very little in the way of genuine pop pleasure for me. There’s a touch of Reznor-esque industrial grunge to the beats here, if you caught Reznor on one of his dancier days. What Curse of Cassandra really serves up is industrial-dance, gutter-glam gloom. Gothic, gauzy synths mingle with buzzier bass lines to propel these songs violently forward and get your body moving. Much like some of Reznor’s best moments, there’s a Rock spirit in Curse of Cassandra’s work, but it’s animated by the synthetic heartbeat of Pop—and that always makes for a compelling pairing. Head over to ReverbNation and check out their page. You can give all four songs on the EP a listen and it’s well worth it. If nothing else, don’t miss out on the highlight “Binding”—a proper bop in every way. And, you know, go support local talent.
What George Portades is listening to this week…
Christina Milian, “Us Against the World”
Serving as the lead single from her “Dream in Color” project that was ultimately shelved, this love ballad by the two-time Grammy nominated R&B singer/actress/entrepreneur (really, she’s got ventures in swimwear, e-hookahs, wines, and an upcoming children’s series) is an underrated gem in her career. While we may never get to hear what the complete project would’ve sounded like, we’re lucky to have this track and that spectacularly amazing music video that accompanies it. With a very minimalistic beat that builds up to an epic chorus, Milian’s vocals effortlessly glide and blend with it perfectly. In looking back at her previously released albums, I found it surprising that this was one of the rare love songs (versus a breakup song like “Until I Get Over You” or “I’m Sorry”) in her career. I hope with her upcoming album on YMCMB that she continues to grow in her music, and while also including some dance tracks (like her Stafford Brothers/Lil’ Wayne collaboration “Hello” or the recently leaked “Encore” demo) that she considers doing one to two love songs. She’s an amazing artist who I hope gets more crossover success, because she really does many genres (pop, r&b, hip-hop, acoustic, dance) well.
Jordin Sparks, “Skipping a Beat”
She’s a former Grammy-nominee and American Idol winner who lately has been focusing on her acting career (see “Sparkle” “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete”) as well as being in the press for her relationship with singer Jason Derulo (see their “Marry Me” music video). However, if you remember her string of R&B hits (such as “Tattoo” “Battlefield” and “No Air”) only just a couple of years ago as well as those solid albums, you know she can really deliver wonderful material. Her latest musical input (aside from the “Sparkle” soundtrack) since her last album has been a single “I Am Woman” a few years ago and writing a hit single for Ariana Grande (“The Way”). However, she finally released this new single just a few months ago, and it’s superb. Featuring a classic throwback beat and a song structure that shifts throughout, her catchy lyrics suit the song well. In addition, her vocals are still in prime condition, and it’s nice to see a lot of her bubbly personality in this track. Here’s hoping that her next album hits big, and I’m glad she’s adding more to her career experience than just music.
Astoria Kings, “Come Alive”
Whenever I think of closing credit songs, I tend to think about big ballads that serve to wrap up all that happened in a drama film. However, when it comes to comedies or light-hearted fare, sometimes you get an upbeat song that continues on the film’s feel-good feeling and cements it as one you’ll never forget. This song appears at the end of the new film adaptation of Brent Hartinger’s “Geography Club” (in select theaters and on VOD right now) and it is such a treat. I can’t help but want to not just nod, but actually bop (do people still do that?) my head whenever the chorus comes on. The song contains such an infectious melody and with lyrics that actually turn out to be a sorta love song. They’re an up and coming band who I can’t wait to hear what else they have to release, and I’m really glad that the film is giving their song an introduction to a wider audience.
What Shahab Yunus is listening to this week…
‘Natasha & Anatole’ is song from the pop-opera created by Dave Malloy, which made quite a few waves this year in NYC with its immersion-theater sensibilities and lush,decadent Russian salon atmosphere. I saw this, this year but the original cast recording has just been released end of October. Thoroughly modern in its music, cynicism and risk-taking but classically passionate and gorgeous just as the narrative which is an excerpt of ‘War and Peace’. It stands out in combining traditional themes and characters of not only going back to the early 20th century Broadway musicals (or oft-done Rock-operas) but way back to the Napoleonic Russia. This is not just another musical cast recording but turns out to be an electronic, dance concept-song (reminding us the similar storytelling record by San Fermin this year). The production is like a romantic song written by someone in this century who is transported from 1810’s Moscow and then put in grinder by The Flaming Lips, Radiohead and Moby. A slow head-banger, shoulder shaker in which main motifs are the thumping drums sprinkled with subtle and soft strings, piano and shakers. Phillipa Soo and Lucas Steele provide the touching, crisp vocals dueling out their mutual but forbidden attraction.
Lorde or Gin Wigmore are not the only one from down-under deserving a ear or our attention in 2013. We have here a wonderful debut alternative-pop EP by another New-Zealand based female singer-songwriter Lucy Cioffi under the moniker Little Lapin. Fun and catchiness of blissful pop like Betty Who or Lenka and the substance and confidence (especially from song-writing perspective) of Lily Allen or quirkiness of Florence Welch. The artists seem to hold promise and worth keeping an eye on what she does next. The tracks seem to be all set for to be used in TV Shows like Grey’s Anatomy (hey, this is not to knock-down the artists; it is not the musician’s fault of the shows are not cool anymore!)
Picks: Yellow Brick Road, Friendship on Fire
‘Black Roses’ is the track by the band Escondido (featured image) from their debut The Ghost of Escondido released this year. The best song of the whole record which comes with the seal of approval from David Lynch. It is is soft and moody and extremely romantic, almost in classical sense in its longing and as elegant and exquisite as a rose. The duo is made up of Jessica Maros and Tyler James who are implants to country music capital Nashville from far away not just geographically (she is from Vancouver, Canada and he is from Iowa) but in tonal sense as well.. The album is primarily a folk-country record but the influence of Western, just like the movie genre, is the more prominent one and this is what sticks out. It is all over the record. The melancholy, the dreaminess, the vastness of space, the dust, the sadness, the always setting sun. Maros indie-inspired, casual (Rilo Kiley’s Lewis immediately comes to mind) vocals and Tyler’s strings bring a sophistication while maintaining the extreme atmosphere.