If you’re like me you get lots of people coming up to you asking for music recommendations. My guess is that you’re not like me in that regard and in many other ways also. I have, for all intents and purposes, sworn off Facebook because they want me to listen to all of my friends’ playlists on Spotify. There are of course many other more legitimate reasons that I’ve sworn off Facebook the main one being that I actually have a life, but I don’t like all of my Facebook friends recommending music to me just like I don’t like people recommending music to me in real life. The reason is simple: most people’s taste in music sucks. It’s not just bad it’s apocryphally bad. If you’re going to recommend a band to me that I’ve never heard of I can tell you that haven’t heard of them for a reason and it’s simple: they aren’t any good. I listen to a lot of music and not just a lot in the context of a teenager or something. Music sites are making it easier than ever to listen to music as well. You can go on Billboard’s website and they have their top 100 loaded up on Spotify for you to listen to. If only they could do that across genres so we didn’t have to listen to the crap we know we won’t like. What’s that? You can? Crazy.
Rather than try and point you to good music in lieu of bad music which many sites are privy to doing I’m just going to list the good stuff. The stuff that came out last month that you should listen to and the stuff that I just happen to be listening to now because it’s come up for whatever reason. I can’t really give recommendations based on the Billboard 100 because if you’re already that dialed in to what’s popular then you’re probably not interested in anything I have to say anyway. I don’t know why music reviewers do that. Rather than just bad mouth the entire music industry though, I think I should say that I don’t wholly disagree with everything going on in mainstream music. There are still decent songs out there, but if you still listen to the radio in your car there is definitely something wrong with you. Why Billboard still tracks songs this way is mind boggling to me. My favorite part of their new tracking service is that it also takes into account “sales in the digital marketplace.” Why? Seriously. Who pays for music anymore?
The Not-so-bad Mainstream hits:
Timber – Pitbull ft. Kesha
Think of all of the horrendous music that Kesha has produced in her relatively short career. Seriously, I dare you. This is one of the few times she is not complaining about the obviously inherent problems of over-drinking as if they’re not entirely avoidable and though Pitbull loses points for being a Bud Light spokesmen and an all-around terrible artist, this song isn’t nearly as annoying as it could be. This is in the Usher – “Yeah” territory of decent number one singles. Now, don’t get me wrong there is absolutely nothing original about this song nor is there with most mainstream music. This is the trade-off you make when you listen to this pop-synchronized crap, but in this case it’s not that bad.
Demons – Imagine Dragons
I love Imagine Dragons. They are the first band since Arctic Monkeys to really put together a listenable album and the first artist since Muse to actually do something interesting with a guitar. Oh, how I wish My Chemical Romance were still doing original things. Radioactive was such a great song last year that I braved the crowds at Summerfest to see them play. They did an awesome remix of that song with Lindsay Stirling that – if you have somehow managed to miss thus far you should correct your wrong now by checking it out.
Don’t Let me be Lonely – The Band Perry
Country? Seriously? Yes. Let me preface this by saying that I’m going to recommend two singles but not two albums from two country artists. I like the Band Perry mainly for their amazing song If I Die Young, but I hope they have staying power at some point because they aren’t doing the whole Dixie Chicks thing or Lady Antebellum thing and they’re branching out which is kind of respectable for country artists. We get it you’re different but you’ve got to stay mainstream to remain relevant. That’s cool as long as your music doesn’t suffer for it.
Alone Together – Fall Out Boy
Oh, the flak I take for loving Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco! Panic at the Disco released their first album in 2002 which was the year I graduated from high school (yes, I’m that old.) Fall Out Boy released their first album a year earlier. When a friend of mine in LA had tickets to see the two bands perform together I seriously considered flying out (but also because I would have been able to see Joe Bonamassa the next day.) I did get to see Fall Out Boy perform earlier this year at the Rave aka as Milwaukee’s worst venue. I would rather pay Riverside prices to avoid the Rave conditions. This album by Fall Out Boy is not a very good one, but it is listenable which makes it better than ninety percent of the other garbage floating around out there.
Arabella – Arctic Monkeys
You didn’t think that Arctic Monkeys reference earlier was just a coincidence, did you? The one thing I don’t like about Arctic Monkeys is how their lyrics don’t match the guitar riffs at all or the overall melody of the song. Still, the licks are memorable enough that you do find yourself singing the songs and remembering the music.
Coming of Age – Foster the People
Finally, the new single from Foster the People which I feel like I’ve been waiting years for. If they put half as much energy into their new album as they did their previous work then 2014 could wind up being a very good year for music indeed. Now, Coming of Age is no Pumped up Kicks, but it is a listenable song from one of my favorite up and coming bands.
Sleeping with a Friend – Neon Trees
I will be the first to admit that I have no idea why I like this song. It’s catchy though therefore I listen to it. It’s got just enough pop to it that it feels refined without being too processed. There’s also a semi-relevant message behind it – in pop music? Say it ain’t so, Weezer!
Normal Person – Arcade Fire
I’m not a big Arcade Fire fan. I’ve never really seen the draw. It sounds ridiculously average to me. They don’t do anything edgy like Muse does and they don’t add anything interesting to their music that makes it stand out. Someone tried to tell me that this was all by design. Who tries not to stand out in the music business? That’s career suicide. Yet, here they are rounding out my list of listenable mainstream music.
The Better Stuff:
The Outsiders – Eric Church
I’ve been listening to this song since it came out in December of 2013. I still love it. I don’t like country music that much, but this song is more rock than country. I also don’t particularly like Eric Church, in fact I don’t like any of his music outside of this song. Go figure.
Dangerous – Big Data
It sounds like Modest Mouse at first, but there are interesting elements to this. The percussion changes up with every riff and the atmospherics make for a rather trippy song. It may not sound great the first time you listen to it, but listen to it a couple of times and it will stick with you not because it’s all that different but because it integrates a lot of ideas that other bands do well into one small, succinct package.
Invisible – the Zolas
I like this song because the chorus is memorable otherwise there isn’t a whole lot that’s noteworthy about this song other than its oft-putting temperament. One thing that this song does well that is becoming a trend in mainstream music right now is the substitution of synthesizers for the basic guitar. This helps drive a rather weak lead guitar through a song that clocks in at less than three minutes.
Mother Father – Lurch & Chief
If ever there were an indefinable song out there for you to listen to this would be it. This song combines wooing with yelling at the same time! If that doesn’t get you rushing to check this song out I don’t know what will. It feels strange yet oddly pleasant at the same time. The two lines do eventually synchronize at the end, but you’ve got to wait a little while to get there. I’m telling you though, it’s worth it.
Opinions – Miamigo
Combining ‘80’s pop techniques with modern vocals, Miamigo manages to create an atmospheric song that is unlike anything out there right now. Not a lot of musicians look to recreate things that make them sound dated, but Miamigo does so and they do so effectively.
Mother We Share – Walla
This song reminded me of Mother Love Bone and for that reason alone it’s worth listening to because there aren’t enough Mother Love Bone-like songs out there.
Problem – Natalia Kills
“That girl is a goddamn problem.” Indeed, I’ve had to deal with three in as many months. Not fun at all. This is a fun song though. It’s what I like to call “pure sex.” Everything about this song is edgy, so edgy in fact that it’s been used in film trailers to try and make their subjects look interesting (a ploy that for all intents and purposes – failed.) It’s a great song though and who among us doesn’t know a girl that is a problem but we can’t help but find ourselves attracted to her anyway? That in and of itself is a goddamn problem.
Rescue, Mister – Trust
This song sounds more industrial than rock or pop. It lays down a heavy bass line and hits hard. The lyrics are incoherent in a Radiohead kinda way only without the annoying part of being a part of a Radiohead song to have to deal with.
Shout it – Southern
It was awfully close between this song and the next one for song of the month. I really enjoyed the blues-infused riffs that this song has. I also like the male/female lead a la Low – California/Monkey. It’s an addictive riff that gets stuck with you.
Oxymoron – The Love Junkies
This song is just too much. There’s so much energy that it reminds me of “I believe in a thing called love,” but in a good way. It’s got a punk-rock driven lead guitar that together with the lead singer’s over the top demeanor give this song all the attitude it needs to kick ass.
Overplayed Artist of the Month – Lorde
Please stop. Just stop. Her songs aren’t particularly original, they’re not catchy, in fact they’re borderline monotone and they annoy me. Just stop.
Overplayed Song of the Month – Say Something – A Great Big World
We get it. You’re giving up. Stop whining about it and move on with your life. Seriously, you’re going to look back on this and be all like: “I bitched about that for the first couple months of 2014? Whoa, sorry dude.”
A song from way back when that you should listen to again: Fools Gold – The Stone Roses.
It’s a song that has a simple bass line and rather simple progression to it which just makes it all the more addicting. Once you hear it again you’ll go: “oh, yeah” and you can thank me for re-inserting this great song back into your life.
Band that has hit its apex yet refuses to quit despite my protestations: One Republic
Guys, you’re not going to top “Apologize,” it’s too late. That’s right, I like my puns intended.
Artist that continues to go underappreciated: Eric Clapton
The guy has put out six albums in the last four years. He’s the guy guitarists simply call: God.