What Am I Listening To? – May 2014

2014_LykkeLi_INeverLearnLykke Li – I Never Learn
She still hasn’t learned how to make an album that follows through on the promise of its best singles. How does this one still feel long with only 9 songs and 32 minutes worth of music?!

2014_KinaGrannis_ElementsKina Grannis – Elements
More of the kinda-charmingly innocent folk/pop she peddled on her first album, though I think she’s refined her craft somewhat in the past few years. Her first album had a few original songs that I really liked, but for the most part her covers got the lion’s share of my attention. This time around, a good number of the originals are sturdy enough to stand on their own. I really like the prominent rhythm section on a few of these – strikes just the right balance so that it doesn’t feel amateurish or overproduced. But I could do without the song “Maryanne”. I don’t know the exact circumstances, but it just seems awkwardly passive-aggressive to write a sweet-sounding little song about why your husband’s ex-girlfriend had to go bye-bye. You know, like when Southerners say “bless her heart”.

Also, a whenever a woman with beautiful long hair goes and chops it all off, a little part of me dies inside. That’s superficial and doesn’t affect the music. I just needed to get it out of my system.

2014_Coldplay_GhostStoriesColdplay – Ghost Stories
Modern day electronica-leaning Coldplay meets the “too meek and mellow to be bothered with a full-length album” Coldplay of olden times. I like the more ambient take on a stripped-down sound, but this album could use a little more meat on its bones.

2014_Merriment_SwayMerriment – Sway
Merriment is made up of a few of the younger DuPree siblings, whose elder sisters, brother, and cousin are all members of Eisley. Their collaboration with Eisley on “Wicked Child” was one of the most magical things on an all-around solid comeback record for the elder band last year. And while Merriment’s style leans a tad more on the folk side, it’s still pretty much Eisley Junior. Maybe Christie DuPree can’t help that her voice and her songwriting style are so similar to that of her sisters. But this feels like a pale imitation on several occasions, and the trick with “twee pop” groups like Eisley is that it can only stay cute for so long if you don’t find ways to mix up the formula. So for now, this is pleasant enough for background listening, but I really hope Merriment forges a different path in the future.

2014_Crowder_NeonSteepleCrowder – Neon Steeple
Since The Digital Age rather faithfully re-created the “aerobic electronic rock” aspect of the David Crowder Band sound, I kinda wondered what Crowder was going to do on his own that was so important, the band had to break up in order for him to pursue that artistic vision. The answer, apparently, is “You Got Your Sriracha in My Peanut Butter: The Album.” Because this album is largely a product of mixing two flavors that, according to most people, don’t go together: Electronic dance music and country/bluegrass. In the right hands, those two ingredients could form the basis of something exotic and delicious. But when used as a formula for an entire album, it gets old fast. I was fascinated when the DCB would make unexpected turns into twangy Western territory or glitchy IDM back in the day, but part of it was the element of surprise, and it also seemed to fit the mood of the song most of the time. Here, it’s an exercise done just for the sake of the exercise itself. I’m sure some of these songs will grow on me, and I suppose I should be grateful that Crowder doesn’t give ’em the typical “contemporary worship middle-of-the-road” treatment. Still, I think at least a few of these beg for non-novelty arrangements.

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