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Monthly Music Roundup: January 2015

 

Uptown Special – Mark Ronson

Mark Ronson’s name lines the production credits on some of the greatest modern pop records to exist. For further proof please note the “Associated Acts” section of his Wikipedia. On his fourth studio album, Uptown Special presents listeners with modern spins on genres he grew up exposed to during formative years split between NYC and London. This album takes elements from far and wide genres—such as, but not limited to, pop, hip-hip, soul, psych-rock—and pairs them with heavy hitting collaborators such as Stevie Wonder, Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. With all of these elements colliding, there is truly something for everyone. Uptown Funk is an unassumingly perfect radio hit single that my younger brother and middle aged parents can both agree on in the car. Hip-hop and rap followers will love the in-your-face profanity of Feel Right featuring Mystikal. If you’re into indie and psych-rock check out any of the tracks featuring Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. The diversity on this album may bring some to argue that Ronson failed to find a cohesion among the tracks, but I believe that Uptown Special successfully nudges the past and remains fully present all in one piece.

Pay attention to: Uptown Funk, Feel Right, Leaving Los Feliz

 

American Beauty/American Psycho – Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy’s sixth studio album showcases the band’s desire to transition from the pop punk emo revival reputation they hold. American Beauty/American Psycho makes an attempt to show that Fall Out Boy can stand up against pop rock heavy hitters–Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons, The Killers–and any big arena rock band. Fall Out Boy has gravitated towards this vision since Save Rock and Roll in 2013, which was a disorganized first shot but gave us hit single My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark. AB/AP is a linear follow up, a radio friendly pop rock album full of pop culture allusions with more clarity than its former release. The band’s most commercial project to date has all the bells and whistles of an anthem. Triumphant horns, repetitive chanting choruses, and in your face guitars weave through lyrical ideas of modern love and relationships. To some degree, this is a formula that works for Fall Out Boy, as the first half of the album has strong and convincing moments but loses steam midway through. Lyrically, love symbolized as drugs, fireworks, and immortality brings the album to a lull and leaves listeners unsurprised. This lack of cohesiveness brings me to two conclusions; American Beauty/American Psycho shows us that Fall Out Boy isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel but you should at least give their new sound a test drive.

Pay Attention To: Irresistible, The Kids Aren’t Alright, Uma Thurman

 

No Cities to Love – Sleater Kinney

Before Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia gig, she was making waves with all girl band Sleater Kinney. The height of their popularity occurred during a 90s underground feminist music movement known as Riot grrrl. Today No Cities to Love is the band’s first album in ten years and this revival alone should demand your attention. Think about it; with the female equality becoming a hot topic in societal conversations everywhere, what better time and place in history could Sleater Kinney make a comeback? The album lyrically touches upon the group’s signature liberal values and a couple of tracks reflect on intense relationship and friendship feelings. For all 32 minutes No Cities to Love, Sleater Kinney delivers jam packed punk and indie rock that will leave diehard fans and first listeners with an album they will obsess over.

Pay attention to: Price Tag, Surface Envy, Hey Darling, Fade

 

Title – Meghan Trainor

Title only fills half the void that Amy Winehouse left in my pop/doo-wop/soulful heart, but, after giving this album more than one listen, I am fully prepared to say that it is straight fire. Meghan Trainor has made an excellent debut album that—even in its youthful showboat moments—feels honest and timeless. Sandwiched between hits like All About That Bass and Lips Are Movin the tracks reflect on a modern twenty-something’s thoughts and experience with love. In summary, Trainor sings about how we’re always in love or looking for it but aren’t interested in compromising our personality, appearance, or professional goals. The confidence in her lyrics paired with upbeat blue-eyed soul is endearing and catchy as hell.

Pay Attention To: Close Your Eyes, 3am, Like I’m Gonna Lose You, Walkashame

 

Vulnicura – Bjork

If anyone wonders where Lorde got it from, look no further than the original pioneer from planet weird. Vulnicura is Bjork’s ninth album and debatably her best yet, which, revolves around her longtime relationship with fellow artist Matthew Barney. The Icelandic artist displays a sense of urgency in her lyrics and shows agency by putting her tribulations on display for everyone to judge. If this is your first time listening to Bjork there’s a chance it won’t stick like it should. In this case, try out her earlier works such as Biophilia or Vespertine but promise that you will eventually circle back to Vulnicura. The unconventional pacing and lack of tonality on this album make it an undeniable staple in Bjork’s discography.

Pay attention to: Lionsong, Notget

 

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