2013’s New-ish Music Review!

Kings Of Leon “Beautiful War”

Album: Mechanical Bull (2013)

Kings Of Leon have been on my radar since 2003 when I first heard “Molly’s Chambers” off their 2003 debut “Youth And Young Manhood.” I enjoyed the record and their subsequent release “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” but it wasn’t until their 2008 breakout “Only By The Night” that I really became infatuated. Since then this band has consistently made their way onto nearly every playlist I make.

About a month ago, KOL released their sixth studio album, “Mechanical Bull.” This record displays both that early “garage rocky” KOL sound (“Supersoaker”), as well the more polished, ambient prog rock sound that we’ve come to know since 2007s “Because Of The Times.” Falling more along those lines, is the song “Beautiful War.”

It’s a strange emotion to describe, but this song makes you feel exhilarated and completely broken at the same time. Singer Caleb Followill’s vocal performance exudes emotion, as if he’s singing the words straight into the ear of the love of his life. “Love don’t mean nothing, unless there’s something worth fighting for” the chorus proclaims, “it’s a beautiful war.” Powerful, simple, beautiful and heartbreaking, all at the same time. The instrumental gives me a very U2 “Joshua Tree” era vibe. Straight forward drum arrangement, lots of tom action, and all the delayed/reverbed out guitar parts any Edge superfan could ask for. This song is 5 minutes and 10 seconds of heartbreaking/uplifting bliss that your ears (and soul) will thank you for. (Other favorites from this album: “Supersoaker” and “Wait For Me”)

Crystal Fighers “You & I”

Album: Cave Rave (2013)

I first heard about this band back in the spring of 2012 when our UK tour manager mentioned that he also worked for a band called Crystal Fighters. I’d never heard of them, I thought their name was kind of goofy so I never bothered to check them out. I heard they were pretty big in Europe, but I just figured they were some weird Euro thing that I’d never get into. Well, I was fucking wrong. I was at a bar in Scotland on our most recent European tour (pretty intoxicated) when their song “You & I” came on. I had no idea who it was but I was super into it, I started asking around and to my surprise, it was Crystal Fighters. The next (hungover) day I added the song to one of my recent Spotify playlists.

This song sounds like a night out at a hipster bar in Brooklyn where The Talking Heads and “Graceland” era Paul Simon meet up and form a supergroup. The “talk sung” vocal in the verses initially drew me in. There’s this quirky swagger to it that I’ve never really heard in a vocal before. I didn’t think it was possible to use those two words back to back in a sentence, let alone be used to describe a vocal performance, but here I am using “quirky” and “swagger” shamelessly. “I ain’t need nothing else, no one else but you and I” the prechorus repeats before breaking into an all out hipster, drum circle jam session, complete with male/female chanted “you and I’s.” If you want to feel really good, listen to this shit. (Other favorites from this band: “At Home”)

Twin Forks “Can’t Be Broken”

Album: EP (2013)

It’s been a while since we’ve heard new music from Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba. The most recent DC record came out in 2009 (“Alter The Ending”), and the most notable thing he’s done since, was a “Swiss Army Romance” 10 year anniversary tour (in 2011). I’ve been a big fan of Mr. Carrabba’s work since the early 2000’s and I was starting to get worried that we’d heard the last of him, that is until one fateful day of mindless Facebook browsing led me to his new project, Twin Forks.

This band is good. Really good. Chris’ song writing is strong as ever, and the heavy (really heavy) folk influence works great with his distinct voice. I must say this entire 5 song EP is solid, but one song in particular stands out to me, “Can’t Be Broken.” Like the rest of this EP, “Can’t Be Broken” is a fast paced folk song, complete with picked acoustic, mandolin, banjo, stomps and hand claps, reminiscent of Mumford and Sons or The Lumineers, but actually good. If I’m scaring you into thinking this is some attempt to be tragically hip, it’s not, at the heart of it, this song is still classic Carrabba. “That’s a love that can’t be broken, the the sting of a heart cut open, that’s the thing about blind devotion, that’s a love that can’t be broken” he sings in the chorus, showing you that the king of wearing his heart on his sleeve hasn’t changed, he’s just gotten a little older, picked up some new instruments and put a new spin on what he’s been great at for so long. (Other favorites from this EP: “Back To You” and “Something We Just Know”)


The 1975 “Heart Out”

Album: The 1975 (2013)

I was inadvertently raised on 80’s music, not that 80’s rock or hair metal stuff, but that 80’s pop stuff. Hall & Oates, Phil Collins, Tears For Fears, Sting, Steve Winwood, I could go on for days, in fact, I have an entire Spotify playlist solely dedicated to the music i regularly heard growing up in suburbia, driving in the car with my parents from one soccer game to the next. I’m not entirely crazy about their self titled debut, but I can’t stop listening to “Heart Out” by The 1975. From the synth bass to the arpeggiated pads and ultra clean guitars, this song sounds like something out of a John Hughes movie, in the best way possible. The chorus is simple and anthemic, “it’s just you and I tonight, why don’t you figure my heart out?” and the saxophone solo brings us back to a time where the sax solo was king (“I Can’t Go For That” by Hall & Oates, “Rio” by Duran Duran, the list goes on). This is the kind of song that spans generations. (Other favorites from this album: “Robbers” and “Sex”)

Drake “Furthest Thing”

Album: Nothing Was The Same (2013)

Last summer I came down with what I’m gonna call “Take Care Syndrome.” What simply started as jamming “HYFR” at parties turned into a full blown 9 month obsession. I dove into every song, the lyrical themes, the production, and slowly but surely, “Take Care” became one of my favorite albums of all time.,

To say I was excited for his follow up would be an understatement. I didn’t expect it to top “Take Care,” that album is a once in a lifetime release, but I knew it would be good, and thankfully Drake proved me right. When “Nothing Was The Same” finally saw the light of day, I listened through about a minute of every track (as I do with almost every album), and one song immediately stuck with me, “Furthest Thing.” I’m a huge fan of Drizzy’s atmospheric down tempo stuff (“The Real Her” “Look What You’ve Done” “Take A Shot”) and this song is just that. Swirling synth pads, lo-fi drum samples and familiar lyrical content from the rapper, still trying to find happiness between fame and normalcy.

Yup, this song is good old “heartbreak Drizzy” at his finest…that is until the 3 minute mark. Apparently producer Jake One (Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole, etc) likes to throw his listeners for a loop because this song takes a complete 360. Huge choir samples, soulful pianos and massive kick snare hits, like something out of Kanye West’s “The College Dropout,” all while Drake proclaims “this the shit I wanna go out to, play this shit at my funeral.” So while Drake is really good at bringing emotion the rap game, it’s pretty clear he still loves being the king. “Naked women swimmin’, that’s just how I’m livin’.” (Other favorites from this album: “Tuscan Leather” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home”)


What are your favorite artists/songs from 2013 so far?