music mondays: chet faker and some first listens

Chet Faker‘s first full album, Built on Glass, came out last week. You probably know him for his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”, a crowd favorite for sure.

Faker is an electronic musician with a soulful side. If you didn’t guess, his performance name is an homage to jazz musician, Chet Baker.

“1998” is my favorite track on this album.

It’s got this great beat that makes me want to dance every time I listen. After the opening verse, he repeats the same verse for about 5 minutes (they cut down for the video apparently). Some of you might find that annoying. But, if you think of Chet Faker as an electronic musician first, it makes sense that he may be less focused on lyrical content. That said, I’m sure most people can relate to his lament:

We used to be friends
We used to be inner circle
I don’t understand
What have I become to you
Take my good word
Turn it backwards
Turn your back on me
Is it absurd
For me to hurt
When everything else is fading

“To Me” is another favorite that gets more soulful. This isn’t an album with a ton of depth, but it’s got some good beats and has been fun to listen to.

NPR Music just opened up the gauntlet recently with the number of First Listens it released. You guys know I’m not generally a country music fan, but I got mad love for Dolly Parton. “Jolene” is probably one of my favorite songs of all time. Basically, Dolly can do no wrong. She’s got a pretty wide variety on Blue Smoke, too. Covers, classics, and new stuff that leans to the pop country sound of today.

I was really excited to see Lykke Li’s new album, I Never Listen, up on First Listen. I heard “No Rest For The Wicked” a couple weeks ago, and liked it immediately.

Wounded Rhymes was such a dark, powerful, slightly scandalous album, and I really enjoyed it, but am looking forward to this more familiar sound from Lykke Li. “Gunshot” is an early favorite. It has this great 80s sound that catches you off guard.

Nikki Nack, the third album from tUnE-yArDs, is out there too. I haven’t listened too closely yet to Merrill Garbus’s latest, but I expect weird, poptastic tracks with worldly influences.

Lastly, I haven’t made it to Lighght, the newest from Kishi Bashi, at all yet, but look forward to giving it a listen. If you like strings, I recommend you do as well.

Happy listening.

Update: Chet Faker was on World Cafe on April 30. I always enjoy hearing an artist talk about their music firsthand, so take a listen.

music mondays: a great day for pop music

haimAlright guys. Here’s the deal. I’m in love. With HAIM. Their album, Days Are Gone, came out today and you should go buy it right now. But let me confess something before we go on. When I first heard their single, Forever, I liked it but was a little put off. I just thought it sounded too much like a Gloria Estefan song, or some other old pop song, but I could never nail it down.

I have since realized the error of my ways. HAIM is like gloriously, awesomely updated 80s and 90s pop music. I have missed good pop music since approximately 2002, when Justified came out (but we will get to that later). Now, HAIM isn’t definitively a pop group. According to Wikipedia, they are a ROCK BAND. I would call them pop-rock. But if you read any reviews of them, you’ll be sure to notice the frequent comparisons to 80s era Fleetwood Mac, or The Bangles, or some good 90s R&B. THOSE ARE ALL THINGS I LOVE. So naturally, I found myself enamored with HAIM.

The group is made of three sisters from LA and a drummer. Fun fact: baby Haim and I share the same birthday (different years). Their parents formed a family band when the girls were still in school. How awesome is that? And their band was called Rockinhaim, hilarious. Anyway, these girls have been playing music together for a long time and it shows.

So, I’ve been listening to their EP, eagerly awaiting the release of Days Are Gone, and the day is finally here. NPR has been streaming the album, so if you aren’t willing to drop $7.99 at iTunes, go take a listen. I really love this whole album, but if I have to pick some favorites, Honey & I is way up there. It’s like Vampire Weekend meets Wilson Phillips in the best way. The album closer, Running If You Call My Name, is also one of my favs. It’s more atmospheric and I think shows the reach that their sound has.

Okay, shift gears a bit. The other good news for pop music is today’s release of The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2. Honestly, I haven’t listened to the whole thing yet, but I do like Take Back the Night, and trust that in the reign of terror Miley has on pop music, JT will always be better. He definitely has a case of “artists make better art when they’re sad” (don’t even try to tell me Cry Me A River isn’t one of the best pop songs ever), but he’s still the current king. And also, JT + Timbaland forever.

Addendum: After listening to all of part 2, I’m really disappointed in it. This is a great example of the failed double album. As a friend of mine put it, part 2 just feels thrown together. Instead of wasting energy trying to put out two albums, he should have put everything into making one really solid album. The songs on part 2 don’t even work together. Some are really clearly pop tracks, like Not A Bad Thing (which I actually don’t hate), others are hip-hop infused and some are heavier, like Only When I Walk Away (which I do hate). And then. AND THEN THERE IS THIS COUNTRY SONG IN THE MIDDLE. Don’t be fooled, Drink You Away may not sound completely like a country track, but bro, it is. I mean, it’s called Drink You Away. I was also really hoping for shorter tracks on part 2, I don’t know what the fascination is with 8 minute pop songs. COMMENCE CRYING OVER THE END OF JT’S POP CAREER.

Nah, I still got your back, JT, but I expect more from you.