What George Portades is listening to this week…
Alice Smith, “Fool For You”
I’m not sure if she recorded this song first, or if it really is a cover of the Grammy-winning single by Cee-Lo Green & Melanie Fiona, but there’s something to be said when another rendition of a song tops the original. I really adored her debut album (which earned her a Grammy nomination a couple years ago), and I finally had the chance to listen to her sophomore album She just recently. It’s a pretty spectacular release, and I’m glad I finally around to listening to it. Songs like “Another Love” and “Cabaret” are amazing, but it was coming across this song that really propelled this album into one of my favorites of the year. While my favorite song of hers is “Dreams” from her debut, this song manages to match that top ranking because her voice really suits the song. Her voice gives more depth and rhythm to the song especially as a solo track (versus the duet), and I’m glad she covered it. If you’re in need of some new music to listen to, be sure to check her album out, as I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Jay Sean, “Guns and Roses”
It’s been a few years since he initially broke out into the US mainstream with back-to-back Top10 hits (“Down” and “Do You Remember”), and while a lot of his material since then ended up on a Japan-only compilation release, Jay Sean finally released his latest album Neon last year. His hit single “Mars” with Rick Ross is one of his best songs ever and while I love that solid R&B track, it’s this song that stood out (in addition to a couple others) while listening to his album. It’s a mid-tempo type of love song, and features a melody that reminds me of previous Bryan Michael Cox hits (such Usher’s “U Got It Bad,” Monica’s “U Should’ve Known Better,” and Faith Evans’ “Tru Love”). One thing that people may forget due to his dance/uptempo singles like “2012 (It Ain’t the End)” and “Hit the Lights” and “I’m All Yours” is that Jay Sean is a really talented singer and songwriter. While the album “Neon” gets a bit too long for me towards the end, there are a lot of other highlights to check out such as the title track, “Luckiest Man” and the buzzed about “Passenger Side.”
Bruno Mars featuring Esperanza Spalding, “Old and Crazy”
I always have a fond attitude towards classic-sounding songs, and this one fits that genre so well. I’ve yet to listen to Bruno Mars‘ latest album in full, but I’ve loved all his singles (well, up until radio overkills them on repetitive airplay) off it to date, and this song just managed to pop up on my iPod’s shuffle mode. It features a nice interplay between Mars and Spalding, while featuring a throwback type of instrumental and vibe. Whenever a song clearly creates a made up music video in my mind while listening to (for me, it’s the two of them singing back and forth to each other while on dueling air balloons – yes, I’ve got “The Chipmunks Adventure” stuck in my head), that’s a big likeability factor for me. As such is the magic of music, as it can inspire you as well as entertain you. “Old and Crazy” is a very fun track, and one worth giving a special look at away from the album as a whole (it’s actually one of the deluxe version’s bonus tracks).
What Shahab Yunus is listening to this week…
Dialects is the second album by Bushwick-based Snowmine. It is a band whose most members, including the main creative force Grayson Sanders, have a background either in Jazz or classical music and you can feel the influence in their work. Dialects is extension of their debut Laminate Pet Animal. On surface their music is indie-electronica/pop but underlying it is elaborate and dramatic orchestrations clearly showing their classical aesthetics which sets them apart from their more well-known contemporaries like Passion Pit or Vampire Weekend. The comparison with the latter is more interesting because just like their vocals and how they distort their singing style to match the melody, Sanders subverts conventional expectations and you don’t know where it will go (something most obvious in the brilliant “Silver Sieve”, the highlight of the whole effort.) In the sophomore effort they are being more adventurous and experimenting with a more dance/pop sound. You have the Cut Copy-and-Beach House hybrid like “Further Along, Farther Away” with its dream like chorus which seems more like a proclamation or chant. One of the first best record of 2014 which is coherent and remarkable in the sense that how it combines both the dreamy and the surreal with a dramatic seduction and an urgent atmosphere. Dialects is out on 2/4/2013 (available on Spotify right now.)
Dum Dum Girls, “Are You Okay?”
From the awesome new album Too True, just released last week, by Dum Dum Girls (I wrote about the first single, “Lost Boys and Girls Club” last year), this is the song (on Spotify, on Youtube) that stands out to me the most. It is simple and poignant and with an extremely relatable and touching melody right out from 80s soft-rock (trademark Girls tone.) But perhaps the greatest achievement is in its simplicity. There are only guitars, with a slight background drum and that is it. No pretentions or unnecessary gimmicks. Even simpler and to the point are the heartfelt lyrics. This reminds me another similarly themed track from Dum Dum Girls from their 2011 album Only In Dreams: “Hold Your Hand”. In that song, the Dee Dee Penny was trying to console someone by being blunt and trying to help the other to move on, not through denial but facing the bitter truth. In this one, it is the other trying to check on Penny (“You say, ‘Are you okay?’”) But things seem to be much difficult this time (“What if it doesn’t go away?/ What if this feeling always plays?”). I know that at least it is not going anywhere from phone for a while. It plays, on repeat!