My first goal with In Tune (is that title too generic?) is to talk about new music I've been enjoying, not enjoying, eagerly awaiting, or what have you. That includes albums, singles, music videos, etc. Typical stuff. My second goal is to curtail as much as I can any of the indier-than-thou posing one often enough finds in music reviewery. I'll be honest and will have an opinion, I'll tend to accentuate the positive, and when I feel like going negative I'll try to keep in mind it is just one more opinion in the pond. That's the best I can offer, so on with the show.
One of the albums that has been getting the most play from me lately is the recently released Mates of State album, Bring It Back. For those unfamiliar with the group, its a married male/female duo with a drums & keyboard setup. Their signature sound is built on catchy vocal harmonies, fuzzy buzzy keyboard melodies, and rolling/crashing drums. This results in a surprisingly full sound, with songs ranging from gleeful pop stomp to quite affecting melancholy ballads. The band's previous three albums were all pretty consistent: 2 or 3 fantastic standout tracks fleshed out with several more samey but still pretty good songs. Well the good news is that the fourth album runs along the same lines, with some amazing standout tracks ("Like U Crazy" and the one-two knockout at the end, "Punchlines" and "Running Out"), and several more pretty good songs that, if anything, are even pretty gooder (uhm, yah) than on previous albums. If you're into big fuzzy songs with charming vocal harmonies, you shouldn't be disappointed.
Built to Spill return with their first album in nearly five years, the wryly titled You In Reverse. Frontman Doug Martsch is known for matching his muscular guitar virtuosity with equally strong, head-sticking melodies, which may be the reason the band's last album (Ancient Melodies of the Future) was so divisive. While I found it to be quite a pleasant listen all the way through, it's impossible to deny that it was overall a less ambitious album in context with their other work. That said, I do believe You In Reverse will prove to be a pleasant surprise for both sides of that fan division, and for new BTS listeners as well. At first listen, the album sounds like the most straightforward rock record they have ever made, and I suppose in some ways it is. It even seems to be missing the layering of sound BTS fans have come to expect. With continued (and repeated listens) however, the layers creep out of the background; the album may not be as lush as past releases, but it's definitely just as complex and rewarding. From the nearly-nine-minute Goliath of an opener "Goin' Against Your Mind" to the sidewinder closer "The Wait," Built to Spill deliver another top shelf effort in the ever-more-crowded realm of indie/pop/rock.
Lastly, I want to mention a couple singles that have been digging their way into my brain lately. The first is one of the best pop gems out so far this year, "Bossy" by Kelis. The vocals are sexy and serpentine ("I ride the beat like a bicycle/I'm icy cold" is just one in a string of great lines this song features), and the backing track is relatively skeletal in all the best ways. To make matters even better, Too $hort guests to knock out the bridge with a surprisingly solid rap. Kelis continues to be up and above most of her contemporaries (Missy E. is just about the only other true female innovator out there in the mainstream right now, it seems. If i'm wrong, I'll be glad of it, so let me know). It's an A+ single and I don't think it will wear out its welcome any time soon. Not to mention the fantastic video, with Kelis (minus her poodle hair, finally) really showing who's boss. The other song that's been stuck in my head lately is Three 6 Mafia's "Poppin' My Collar," the follow-up single to their magnificent "Stay Fly." I'm not going to pretend I really care about this group in a big way. I didn't like any of their songs I heard before "Stay Fly," I haven't downloaded any of their albums including the newest one, and while I think it's pretty cool they won the Oscar this year, I also think "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" was the weakest of the three or four songs D Jay performs in Hustle & Flow. All that aside, there's no denying the song. Like "Stay Fly," the instrumental here is upbeat bordering on triumphant; the lyrics are meaningless; the delivery is awesome; the hook is as good as it gets. Project Pat's flow in particular makes me want to add a final -a syllable to every last word I say for all time. It's that darn catchy. That said-a, I think I'm gonna go to bed-a. See you late-a, unless you are a music hate-a.