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Favorite Recent Musical Discoveries
You know the feeling you get when you just know you're going to love a song from the first few notes you hear? The past few months I've come across several artists whose music I've felt that way about, which is not only rare (if you're picky like I am) but also very exciting. I thought I'd make a short list of who I've been listening to the most lately that are relatively new additions to my iPod.
"I Am Not a Robot"
Marina & the Diamonds: First things first, the name is deceiving. "Marina & the Diamonds" is actually just Marina Diamandis, a Welsh singer-songwriter of Greek descent. She has quickly become one of my favorite artists. I first heard of Marina when my friend recommended the song "I Am Not a Robot." I went to YouTube and watched the music video first, which can't really be described in words and just needs to be watched. My trying to describe her rhinestone-encrusted lips would only sound tacky (see?) and not like the work of art that the video really is. That being said, I immediately loved the song and downloaded the rest of her debut album, The Family Jewels. From top to bottom, the album is incredible-- Marina writes catchy songs that range from the Annie Lennox-esque power ballad "Numb" to guilty pleasure pop anthems like "Hollywood," where she describes and parodies classic American lifestyle and priorities. She's got a knack for delivering unexpected and catchy melodies, with surprisingly introspective and complex lyrics. I can't wait to see what she does next.
Ellie Goulding: This singer-songwriter also hails from the UK, where she was named the number-one predicted breakthrough act of the year in the BBC's annual poll of music critics (Marina came in second!). Ellie's a great songwriter, and her music comes across as a playful push-pull between an acoustic guitar sound and the enticing retro synth-pop beats that embellish her songs. She's a skilled lyricist too--listen to the songs "Wish I Stayed," "Your Biggest Mistake" and "Hold My Breath," my personal favorites. At times it seems like she can't decide whether she wants to be a folk musician or a dance pop artist, but nonetheless her album is a lot of fun and I'm excited to see which direction she goes in.
Best Coast: Based in Los Angeles, Best Coast is the brainchild of Bethany Cosentino, who writes all of the music and sings lead. Their album Crazy For You, released last July, received high marks from Pitchfork.com and fast became the soundtrack to my summer. They've been classified as surf pop/garage rock as well as lo-fi. This is pretty accurate-- Bethany's vocals, melodic sensibility and instrumentation are all reminiscent of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound (think The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice") and she combines this underused sound with relatable material. In the song "Goodbye," Bethany sings, "I lost my job/I miss my mom/I wish my cat could talk." Other great songs are "I Want To," "Boyfriend," "The End" and "Our Deal."
"Black Lake" - Real Estate
Real Estate: Also a Pitchfork favorite, Real Estate falls under a similar category as Best Coast with their surf pop sound, but theirs is more psychedelic and "indie." The band is made up of four guys from northern New Jersey, and incidentally, brings to mind the hazy days of suburban summer and jamming in your parents' garage. But it's far more sophisticated than that. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2009, is mostly instrumental with only the occasional vocal harmonies and pop choruses. Don't let that dissuade you from listening, though. Songs like "Beach Comber," "Atlantic City" and "Pool Swimmers" are all fun tracks, but it's the gorgeous melodies in "Green River" and "Black Lake" that really take the cake. The latter, a nostalgic, chiefly instrumental waltz, instantly reminded me of the 1959 song "Sleepwalk" by Santo & Johnny. This is an album I can listen to from top to bottom, and I highly recommend checking these guys out.
Local Natives: This is a fairly recent discovery of mine, and was a gem amidst a hodgepodge of music that I'd taken from a friend's iTunes. These guys hail from Los Angeles, and their sound is mostly described as psychedelic folk, often drawing comparisons to Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire. They first generated buzz with their performance at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas in 2009. Their album, Gorilla Manor, delivers a wide array of sounds and melodies, from the softly beautiful "Cubism Dream" (about skyping with a lover overseas, no less) to the anthemic "Stranger Things," powered by a gorgeous string section. Hopefully they will be able to escape being compared to their predecessors soon and develop even more. These guys have huge potential.
Deadbeat Darling: Now for the most recent discovery-- literally about 2 weeks old. I saw
these guys in Brooklyn a couple weekends ago because my friend's
boyfriend was playing in a band that opened for them. I had no idea what
to expect, but they completely blew me away. Self-described as "equal
parts mischief and bliss, eloquence and
irreverence, Deadbeat Darling is a rock band whose music shimmers with
hints of dub and electronica." I probably couldn't have said it better
myself. Frontman Joseph King really knows what he's doing, and is an
amazing songwriter and performer. The energy at the show was great and
their fans packed the place. I just downloaded their album Weight of Wandering,
which they recorded in 2009. While it's a great album, the music they
played when I saw them was even better-- they seem to be improving all
the time and have a knack for delivering a strong hook coupled with
unique lyrics. They're getting signed and will be traveling to the UK to
record soon, and I can't wait to hear what they've been working on. Check out this relatively new song, "Flowers For Our Graves."
Hope you enjoyed this list. I always love getting new music recommendations, so if you have any, please pass them along!