Lana Del Rey sings with heart and soul. Her lyrics are full of wistful melancholy, longing for depth, and dreams of the wild life. Vibey and loaded with emotion, she has attracted a huge audience of young women and the rest of us who look for some sense of real feelings in our music. I’ve seen her live twice now. Once from way in the back at Governor’s Ball and just a couple weeks ago at a much more intimate setting at Terminal 5. She is evolving and you can here it in her music and see it in her performance. The audience at Terminal 5 reminded me of nothing so much as a Beatles audience from the 60’s. Girls screaming and singing along as loud as they could throughout the night. This was the most packed house I’ve seen at this venue. Her performance was stellar and personal. She interacted well with the audience even agreeing to sing “Get Free’ when the audience chanted for it even though she wasn’t sure she could remember the words and needed help from the audience. This also resolved a long-running question about who the people were whose names were left out of the previous recording. The words are: “for Amy and for Whitney.” See the last video in the playlist which was recorded that night.
She has been criticized for her straightforward performance style, but it is clear she is trying to add a little more to her stage presence, moving more, dancing a little, and bringing in backup dancers. Really what those critics missed is that her singing is loaded with real emotion; and that doesn’t require acrobatics.
She may look like a pretty pop star, but Lana Del Rey writes evocative songs, sings with strong emotion, and connects to the audience. She is the real deal. Sit back, have a sip of wine, and enjoy the feels.
In this playlist:
Ride – One of my favorites
Love – From her newest album – shows off her vocals
Summertime Sadness – Watch the video version to hear the madness at Terminal 5!
Get Free – The video version was unplanned and acapella – also at Terminal 5
YouTube playlist: Lana Del Rey
Spotify playlist: Lana Del Rey
This band is not for everyone. Maybe the opposite of a “wall of sound”, their music is simple, even minimalist. Their impact has been huge. They convey a kind of romantic feel no one else has been able to duplicate. I once saw a review which said that while there are lots of songs about things leading up to sex, the xx songs seem to take place afterwards. There is a depth of feeling here that, if you hook into, can grab you my the solar plexus. It’s like being pulled into a connection between the two singers that you can’t escape. When I was lucky enough to see them live (see bad photo above) it was clear they have an adoring audience who know all the words, and just want more and more.
In this playlist:
Crystalised – Their biggest song from their first album – the video is an intimate live version that let’s you see how they work.
Chained – From Coexist, their second album
Islands – Check the YouTube video – a truly unique piece of choreography with feels that run deep
On Hold – From their most recent album, “I see You” – YouTube version is live
Angels – Perhaps one of their most intimate songs – the video I’ve included is purely a solo with Romy singing and playing guitar.
YouTube playlist: The xx
Spotify playlist: The xx
This one is just for fun. Here are some Indie Rock songs that lean a little on the nerd side. Why? Words like parallelogram, ion displacement and encryption don’t seem very likely in rock songs – but here they are. Great music – slightly nerdy words. Enjoy.
In this playlist:
alt-J – Tessellate – Tessellate: cover a plane surface by repeated use of a single shape, without gaps or overlapping
The New Pornographers – High Ticket Attractions – Use of the word encryption is here – along with reference to Mayans, the science of falling, and ignoring the warning – good enough to make the list
Vampire Weekend – Bryn – Not really a nerdy song except for the opening words: ion displacement
Certainty – Temples – making parallelograms cool again
Courtney Barnett – Elevator Operator – Courtney gets on the list for her reference here to SimCity – watch the video – cute – maybe not so nerdy
YouTube playlist: Indie Rock Nerds
Spotify playlist: Indie Rock Nerds
If you listen to the first song on this playlist and think – wait, is that the Beatles? the Moody Blues? – you’d be forgiven. In general Indie Rock is known for incorporating ideas from all rock times and genres. So I wouldn’t overdo the “retro” concept here. What stands out most about the Temples is their incredible talent as musicians and their dedication to their music. I hear bits of 60s, 70s, and 80s music throughout Indie. I think what is great about that is that in indie rock, people don’t feel that the only way forward is to invent the next genre. Instead, let’s look at all the ideas we can find and create something brand new, that’s never been heard before.
In the case of “Shelter Song,” it certainly has a big retro feel. I chose it for that reason. But listen to the rest of the Temples catalog and you won’t question their originality one bit. The picture here (and the top level picture in this blog) I took at their concert in New York in 2014. One thing that really stood out was their amazing guitar work. These guys are serious. Have fun.
In this playlist:
I Wanna Be Your Mirror
Mystery of Pop
YouTube playlist: Temples
Spotify playlist: Temples
The title may not be official, but never mind, she is the queen (and occasionally the king too). She is a consummate professional, a great singer, a feeling human being, and a serial collaborator. If she is singing, I’m listening. As someone in the YouTube comments wrote, “you don’t need auto-tune if it’s built in.” Neko is one of the lead singers of the New Pornographers but I feel I need to pay homage to her as a solo artist first because, well,… she is the queen.
I’ll post the New Pornographers another time (edit: here now), but for now, just enjoy her performance, her voice, and if you feel the need, you may bow.
I took the blurry photo above at a free Neko Case concert in New York on the pier in 2012. I’ve seen her twice with the New Pornographers and I’m psyched to say I’ve got tickets for her upcoming solo tour in January. Neko Case rules. Check out the comments on YouTube to see some serious admiration.
For more examples search for her collaborations with Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Elton John, and the album she did with k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs.
Song on this playlist:
Behind The House / This Tornado Loves You / Man / Magpie To The Morning / I’m An Animal
YouTube playlist: Neko Case
Spotify playlist: Neko Case
Indie music covers a wide range. For this Sunday afternoon, I decided to highlight the more melodic, soothing side of Indie Rock. Every few months someone reports the death of Indie, but I think what they are really mourning is a specific sound of the 90s and early 2000s. A harder, punkier sound. These articles are wrong in every respect. That sound still lives on in plenty of bands still playing from originals like Sleater-Kinney to newer bands like Bleached and The Kills. But Indie has branched out to so many more genres including electronic, Psychedelic, and much more. In this playlist you’ll hear some quite popular bands playing music that you can just sit back and enjoy. So take off your shoes, turn off the news, and relax.
On this playlist:
Alvvays – Dreams Tonite
Beach House – Zebra
Pinback – Proceed To Memory
Real Estate – Had To Hear
YouTube playlist: The Softer, More Melodic Side of Indie
Spotify playlist: The Softer, More Melodic Side of Indie
Chvrches is one of my favorite bands. Bits of “The Mother We Share” have been my ringtone for quite a while and it always makes me happy. They are smart, young, energetic, and love to play to a big audience. Lauren Mayberry has an infectious voice and a great stage presence. (My picture above.)
I started really enjoying their music before I saw them live and was at first taken aback by their setup. It’s all electronic. It didn’t take long for me to be a full-on convert. I see now that electronic instruments can make sounds you just can’t get any other way and it takes nothing away from the feelings.
On the video version of Recover I’ve included in the YouTube playlist there is a moment when Lauren sings, “you know you don’t need me” when the lights fade and you can pick up on the strong emotions of heartbreak in the lyrics. I don’t know – I just can’t get enough of this band. I hope you love them too.
On this playlist:
The Mother We Share – Their go-to encore
Bury It – Just a great song – check out the version where they pair up with Hayley Williams if you get a chance
Recover – The live video I mentioned above
Never Ending Circles – Dance it out
Dead Air – A great feeling tune they wrote for the Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack
YouTube playlist: Chvrches
Spotify playlist: Chvrches