Monday Morning Tunes: The Naked and Famous

The Naked and Famous
ultra5280 / Flickr

The Naked and Famous has been in frequent rotation in my life for the past couple of years, ever since I first heard their song “Young Blood.” After that first listen, I was hooked.

I have mostly listened to The Naked and Famous while cleaning my house (I always need upbeat, happy music I can awkwardly dance my heart out to while cleaning), or when I’m just in the mood to listen to music that makes me feel good without any real effort on my part. It’s amazing when a good song can just magically make you happy and want to dance, and that is what most of their first album, “Passive Me, Aggressive You,” does to me every single time I listen to it.

After two years, The Naked and Famous has just recently released their second full-length album, “In Rolling Waves.” While different — slower, and a little more melancholy than their inaugural album — I loved hearing a new side of this alternative rock band from New Zealand.

The first single from “In Rolling Waves” is “Hearts Like Ours,” a perfect choice given that it is one of the few songs on this album that could have sat comfortably on their last. It makes for an easy transition for fans of “Passive Me, Aggressive You” to tread the slower water of “In Rolling Waves.” See what I did there?

Monday Morning Tunes: Nicholas David

Nicholas David
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Nicholas David competed on season 3 of the NBC vocal talent show, “The Voice,” which is the only talent-based competition reality show that I watch. Season 5 premieres tonight, so you know what I’ll be doing.

While the first time I heard Nicholas David was on this show, where he scored a spot on CeeLo Green’s team, sang his way to the top 3, and amassed an extraordinary fan base, he had been busy honing his craft for over a decade prior.

Before his success on “The Voice,” Nicholas David released 5 albums, which received ample praise and national radio airplay. His career, like most every other musician out there, revolved around the struggle of getting the music he created into the ears of others. He was afforded that opportunity while on “The Voice,” and it was an awesome treat to watch week after week.

I have mentioned Nicholas David to my fiance multiple times. The last time I did, he could only smile and ask me, “What is it with this guy?”

Well, Nicholas David is soul from the word ‘go.’ It exudes from him in everything he does, the songs he writes, the way his sings them, and how he never looks fully in control of himself. He just moves along with the rhythm of the music and it all comes together effortlessly. His voice always makes me smile.

Nicholas David proved that he wasn’t just going to fade back into obscurity after his stint on live television. He released a 4-song EP this year and it is touching and full of soul, just like him.

The title track of the EP, “Say Goodbye,” is such an incredibly warm and beautiful song. It exemplifies who Nicholas David is as a songwriter and performer through and through.

Monday Morning Tunes: Jukebox the Ghost

Jukebox the Ghost
fwyb / Flickr

I have no idea how I have not heard of Jukebox the Ghost until this past week. Seriously, this is a band that I should not only have heard of before, but should be a hardcore fan of by now.

A three-piece alternative rock/pop band native to Washington, D.C. and based in Brooklyn, Jukebox the Ghost has released three albums since 2008 and are frequently on tour, playing upwards of 150 shows a year. Reasons why I should have heard of them well before now include the fact that they have toured with and opened for bands I have long been a fan of, like Jack’s Mannequin and Ben Folds.

Jukebox the Ghost does something I absolutely love. They write very upbeat, happy music that makes you smile and want to dance around in your underwear (come on, you still do it!) But when you catch a line and really pay attention to the words they’re singing, you find out that it is in fact a really dark song.

I have this habit of listening to really upbeat music and not paying close attention to the words, because most of the time I’m either cleaning my house like a madwoman or working and have it on in the background because my brain likes to be kept busy. I was listening to the song “Somebody” and wasn’t paying attention until I heard the lines “I don’t want any more heartbreak / I’m tired of the sound it makes.” And with that, they had me. I started the entire song over and they had my undivided attention from beginning to end.

Love accounts for our highest highs and our lowest lows. It’s what all the great novels, movies, and songs are written about, so when a band or a poet or a novelist or a screenwriter gives attributes like sight, touch, taste, or sound to love, it brings about some very unique imagery that I appreciate.

“Somebody” and “Oh, Emily” are the first two songs on Jukebox the Ghost’s latest album, “Safe Travels.” I highly suggest you give the entire album a listen. You won’t be disappointed.

Monday Morning Tunes: Gossling

badjonni / Flickr

No, Ryan Gosling has not abandoned his acting pursuits and status as Object of Feminist Affection Everywhere to release an album I have to rave about. At least not to my knowledge. Yet every time I did a search for Gossling, Google insisted that I had no idea what I was looking for and repeatedly pointed me in the direction of Ryan Gosling. Sometimes Google is wrong. There, I said it.

The Gossling I’m talking about is Australian singer/songwriter Helen Croome, accompanied by a group of musicians she met while earning her Bachelor of Music (Composition) degree.

The first time I heard Helen Croome’s voice, I was completely captivated and utterly confused. The tone of her singing voice made absolutely no sense to me. How does someone get or create the vocal tone I was hearing? Immediately after listening to the very first song I heard by Gossling, “Wild Love”, I searched YouTube for a live version. I was expecting to find some sort of effects machine at play but found none, which only drew me in more.

Not only did Croome’s voice keep my attention, but the sweet and entertaining way she carried herself in that performance, singing and playing a guitar, mesmerized me. She also sings with a smile on her face, making the whole experience of watching a live performance that much more enjoyable. Since then, I have watched this video about 50 times.

I am all about unique voices. I gravitate towards them, always. Sóley is an excellent example of that. Gossling effortlessly manages to fulfill this love of something different in me on a whole new level, and I am so thrilled and delighted by that.

Gossling has released three EPs over three years — two in 2010 and the last, Intentional Living, in 2012. This last EP, in my humble opinion, is their best work to-date; it is a joy to listen to and only disappointing in the respect that it is made up of just four songs. I could tell you how many times I have listened to those four songs, but I won’t. Let’s just say I can recall those lyrics by memory without hesitation and leave it at that.

“Wild Love” was the single from the “Intentional Living” EP, which I think is the catchiest tune on the track list. Another great, must-listen song is “Heart Killer” which was featured during the opening scene of an episode of “Nashville.” That is a pretty big deal for a relatively unknown artist.

From the moment I first discovered Gossling, I have repeatedly wondered why she has only released EPs over the last few years. I didn’t have to wait long for that question to be answered. Just yesterday Gossling released the first single, “Never Expire” from her upcoming full-length album, “Harvest of Gold,” due to be released November 1, 2013.

I am already excited for this album, and what makes it even more exciting is that it will be released the day before my birthday. Thank you, Gossling!

Monday Morning Tunes: The Tallest Man on Earth

The Tallest Man on Earth
lavid / Flickr

I hadn’t planned on writing about The Tallest Man on Earth this week. I actually had another artist narrowed down from my ever-growing list of New Favorite Music Ever and had already begun writing that post before I even knew there was a man making incredible music with mostly just his voice and a guitar under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth.

That was last night, and in that time I have listened to all three of his full-length albums to-date straight through, and then the most recent album, “There’s No Leaving Now“, twice. I fell in love with it immediately and all of my plans about that other artist I started writing about for this week went right out the window. I was so taken with this particular album and enjoyed it so much that rather than risk my life by climbing up to the highest point on my roof to scream my music recommendations at my neighbors first thing in the morning, I figured this has to be the next best and much safer thing to do.

The Tallest Man on Earth is Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matsson. Recommended to me based on my ridiculous love of Conor Oberst. Seriously, if you thought my post about Rilo Kiley was an exercise in extreme fandom, you haven’t seen a thing compared to how I feel about pretty much anything Conor Oberst has ever musically touched. Give it time. He is still making music and you are bound to get a post about him eventually.

After listening to everything I could find by The Tallest Man on Earth — literally — I wouldn’t necessarily compare him to Oberst. Their music, while in the same (mostly) folk vein, isn’t terribly similar. They do have one glaringly obvious thing in common, however. Both Conor Oberst and Kristian Matsson have been repeatedly compared to Bob Dylan. I have long been a critic of putting that badge on Oberst, just because I think he has the weight to sit comfortably on his own without the incessant need to compare or lump him into the same bubble as the epic, legendary Dylan. I am generally uncomfortable with comparing one artist to the next to the next as it is, but I immediately, with just the first song I heard Kristian Matsson sing, flat-out compared him to Bob Dylan, in both songwriting and vocal styles.

The first The Tallest Man on Earth song I listened to was “The Gardener” from the first album “Shallow Grave“, and within just the first few words Matsson sung, it was as if I were hearing a young Bob Dylan sing about insecurity and relationships.

It is my understanding that “Shallow Grave” was heavily inspired by Bob Dylan, but I was delighted to see him acknowledge and own up to what he was able to learn and take away from him in an interview I was able to find. He is asked about how he became familiar with the vocabulary of American songwriting and answers with, “I started when I was 15, I started to listen to Bob Dylan… no shit.” Here is the link to the interview. The question begins at the 2:40 mark.

As I listened to the second album, “The Wild Hunt,” which came two years after his debut release, I could hear Matsson getting a little further away from the distinct vocal tone and delivery that is a constant in the first album, and I enjoyed it more because of it. I was able to just begin to hear him as himself, showcasing his real abilities.

Kristian Matsson so obviously matured as a songwriter and vocalist in his third and latest album, “There’s No Leaving Now,” which came out in the summer of 2012. He finally wrote, recorded, and produced an album that is more him standing on his own as an artist than any of the previous releases, and perhaps not surprising at all, this is my favorite album of his.

A phenomenal example of folk music that can be upbeat, make you happy, and give you goosebumps.

Monday Morning Tunes: Rilo Kiley

Rilo Kiley
whittlz / Flickr

I have been a huuuge fan of Rilo Kiley since around the time their first album, “Take Offs and Landings” came out in 2001. They released a second album the follow year, “The Execution Of All Things,” that still remains one of my all-time favorites. It played almost nonstop throughout my teenage years, the backdrop of the mental illness that was just beginning to really show.

Between then and 2007, Rilo Kiley released several EPs and four full-length albums in total, though many would like to forget “Under The Blacklight” ever happened, myself included. It was terrible. It was not the band that I discovered and immediately latched onto as if it were a life vest that could help save my teenage self. Instead, it was a group of people wondering if they could throw their already established and unique identity in the trash and start over for a more mainstream audience. (No. No they could not.)

After a several year hiatus, Rilo Kiley officially disbanded in 2011. However, as with every single musical artist ever, they had written and recorded a lot more songs than those that were released to the public, and this past April a compilation of rarities and B-sides entitled “rkives” was released.

I just found “rkives” last week. I am blaming Spotify for this oversight, as they took their good ole’ sweet time alerting me that Rilo Kiley had released anything new despite the fact that I am following them and have all of their albums, even the dreaded and hardly-ever-listened-to “Under the Blacklight” saved as personal playlists. Damn you for keeping this from me, Spotify.

rkives is the (mostly) perfect farewell to a band that I have long been very emotionally invested in. I say mostly because I firmly believe “Dejalo” should have never been released in the first place, and yet on “rkives” it is given an awful remix that I cannot turn off fast enough whenever it rolls back around.

Since I have been listening to this album almost exclusively since I found out it existed, I thought it was only fitting to share some of my favorite tracks from it here.

“Let Me Back In” is an ode to Los Angeles and classic Rilo Kiley. It is sweet, nostalgic, and the essence of what Rilo Kiley has always had to offer.

“Emotional” — oh, this song. The first time I listened to “rkives” I listened to it straight through. I didn’t give individual songs a second listen until I had finished the album and could see how it stood on its own, as a compiled piece of work. I didn’t know that “Emotional” had left such an impression on me until I found myself humming it several hours later. I dub “Emotional” the sneaky earworm.

There’s not a whole lot going on in “It’ll Get You There.” It is merely a song made up of lists, which Jenny Lewis has a habit of doing in her writing. I’m not knocking it. I love this song, regardless of the lack of insight it takes to get the message of this song across loud and clear. No fancy language needed.

All the trips that you take, they will get you there.
All the little white pills you take, they will get you there.
All the compliments that you take, they will get you there.
All the hearts that you break, they will get you there.

Monday Morning Tunes: Soley

cafenun / Flickr

The first time I heard the unique sound of Soley, I was sold. I was completely captivated.

The Icelandic multi-instrumentalist had traveled the entire world and back again as part of the indie act Seabear before recognizing and becoming comfortable with her own vocal abilities and delving into solo work.

In 2011, Soley released the album “We Sink.” I have not been able to get enough of it since I heard it for the first time a couple weeks ago.

Out of the 13 tracks, the song “I’ll Drown” became a quick favorite.

How about a live version?

Monday Morning Tunes: Wild Child

Wild Child
Do512 / Flickr

I have always had a deep, emotional relationship with music. While I was introduced to the music and stories of rock classics as a child, it was during my adolescence and teen years where music became so important to me. Every album I picked up or happened to come across (one of my favorite things to do was go to a music store and pick up an album based solely on its cover art or title) during those years seemed to have something to say to me. Every big event in my life: every growing pain as I grew into the woman version of myself, every big decision I ever made, every relationship I carried on, there are albums forever reminiscent of each of the times in my life when I discovered them for the first time and what was going on around me, or when I needed them and they were there.

I do not merely listen to music. I devour it whole. I feel every syllable being sung and every instrument working with the next to create something that can speak to me so clearly.

I am always looking for new music to listen to, and since I started listening to the vast majority of my music on Spotify so I can listen on my laptop while I work (seriously the best way to listen to music on your gadgets as far as I’m concerned — and I was not paid to say that!) I have been able to constantly fuel my appetite for new, interesting, and exciting sounds.

It has become a habit to share all of the new music I routinely find and wonder how I ever lived without it with a friend of mine who happens to have the same tastes in music as I do (you know, the awesome taste!) Then I thought that if I was constantly bombarding the Facebook walls of my friends, why not share the love here as well?

Which brings me to this: every Monday morning I will be posting some new music I’ve recently discovered and can’t get enough of. Because everyone could use a little more new and exciting in their lives come Monday morning. It may not be new to the world, but it will be to me — and maybe to some of you.

Wild Child is a six-piece full-on orchestral band featuring ukulele, violin, cello, drums, keyboards, as well as a multi-instrumentalist who picks up a few different instruments for specific songs.

Wild Child’s first and only album so far, “Pillow Talk,” was released in 2011, but I didn’t hear it for the first time until just a couple of weeks ago when it popped up in the Spotify Discover feature, a page filled with recommendations based on your past listening choices. I love it.

Their album cover immediately stood out to me. It is unique and comfortable; beautiful and a little silly. And with that, the two people sitting on that red vintage sofa immediately conveyed what I could expect from the 15 songs that made up their first offering.

“Pillow Talk” is Wild Child’s most listened to song, and it immediately became the song I wanted to hear over and over for hours. I listened to it repeatedly, and I swear, it only became even more beautiful and intriguing after each listen.

And what quickly became my favorite song on the album, “Silly Things.” Why? Because they took such a common item, the coffeepot, and effortlessly set up the entire unraveling of a couple around it.

And those harmonies? Amazing.