Spring Song Recommendations

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For a while now, Brent and I have been playing with the idea of doing a Song of the Week-type feature to introduce people to new music by highlighting the songs that are currently ruling our respective music worlds. We haven’t gotten around to it yet, so instead, to go with the recent Albums of the Season piece, I compiled a list of some of the songs that I can’t get enough of this spring and – duh – wrote a little bit about each one. It’s a combination of new releases, 2013 holdovers, and singles from upcoming summer albums. Hopefully, you come across some new stuff you like, or find something that managed to fly under your radar last year. Enjoy.

“Cannibal” by Silversun Pickups

The alternative rock band Silversun Pickups have been around for over 10 years, have produced three pretty terrific albums and have released a handful of EPs. They don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, but they have already put out enough great material to compile a greatest hits album. So, this year, they did exactly that. The Singles Collection, using the formula of many a compilation album, consists of the crème of the crop of Silversun Pickups’ discography and then throws in a new track to make sure their fans will feel the need to own it.

In this case, that extra track is a gem. It features a pounding, mechanized, almost Nine Inch Nails-like beat and a weird energy to it that continuously builds. There’s a strange but really intoxicating mix of excitement and paranoia that makes you want to put it on repeat. This is one that will get stuck in your head – but in a good way.

“You’re No Match” by Bayside

Bayside released their first album, in three years in February, and I’ve had a hard time with it. Their last album, Killing Time, was one of their best, so I had high hopes for Cult. However, as much as I’ve wanted to love it, it’s just not very original. Nearly every song reminds you of a better Bayside song. If I hadn’t heard every Bayside song 100 times, then I’d probably appreciate it a lot more, but that’s not the case, so it sounds familiar at best and watered down at worst. With that being said, if you like Bayside or pop punk, you’ll probably enjoy “You’re No Match,” because it’s more or less every previous Bayside song in a nutshell.

“Bitter” by Atmosphere 

Atmosphere, the underground hip-hop legends from Minnesota, are also releasing their first album in three years. After the super dark The Family Sign, a shift in tone would seem logical; however “Bitter” is pretty contemptuous in its own right. Although it’s not the deepest or most clever Atmosphere song, it has the perfect combination of easy flow, simple beat and catchy chorus to make it an accessible and fun single.

“High Ball Stepper” by Jack White

Jack White has been called a genius countless times: For his guitar virtuosity, for his boundless creativity and for his unique visual sensibility. It should be no surprise that he released the perfect teaser to announce that he’s coming out with a new album, but this song/video is just too good. It’s entirely instrumental – essentially Jack White jamming out on different instruments, playing with guitar effects, and shredding to excess. Oh, and about the video? Who knew watching paint vibrate could be so entertaining and so mesmerizing?

“Fever” by The Black Keys 

The first single off of the new Black Keys album wasn’t for everybody, it seems. But we should all know the drill by now. This is the Black Keys. They are the best and biggest rock band in the world. They ooze cool. If they want to make a low-key blues-rock album, they will. If they want to fuse blues-rock with commercial pop, they will. If they want to make an album where every song sounds like a big arena rock anthem, they will. And it will all be (/has been) great. Now, as they did in “Strange Times,” it appears they want to dip a little more into the grooves of psychedelia. Fine by me; this song is trippy and fun.

“Forever” by Haim 

Haim’s 2013 album, Days are Gone, was huge in indie pop circles. Their irresistible fall hit, “The Wire,” somehow managed to evoke The Eagles, Shania Twain and a whole bunch of 80’s pop. I imagine Vampire Weekend would do an awesome cover of it for some reason. “Forever” is starting to get some radio play this spring, and I heard it’s in a Target commercial now, too. It doesn’t have any of the country-rock overtones of “The Wire” – it’s all 80’s dance pop this time around, all bouncy bliss. So, if you like that kind of stuff or current bands, like The Naked and the Famous, that channel that feel, then this one is for you. (Side Note: The Naked and the Famous’ “Hearts Like Ours” was my favorite 80s song of 2013. You should check that one out, too.)

“The Walker” by Fitz and the Tantrums

After the smooth R&B and blue-eyed soul of Fitz and the Tantrums’ first album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, they returned last year with a little extra pop in More Than Just a Dream. They released “The Walker” at the tail end of the year, and it’s starting to pop up pretty much everywhere now – the radio, bars, clubs, and my car. It is just poppy enough to be a hit, and just soulful enough to really stand out. I don’t have anything else to say other than that it’s the happiest song in the world – I’m a huge sucker for whistling songs – and to listen to it/ watch the delightful music video right now.

“Anagram” by Young the Giant

Young the Giant’s sophomore release was a lot of things – ambitious being the first to come to mind – but it largely lacked the uncomplicated pleasures of its predecessor. However, its first proper track of the album, “Anagram,” is a pretty likeable song that grows on you the more times you listen to it. If we’re being nitpicky, we could say it’s a little longer than it needs to be, but it’s catchy chorus and its Arcade Fire-like soaring strings make up for it.

“Telescope” by Cage the Elephant

When Cage the Elephant burst on the popular music scene in 2009, they were hailed as the saviors of rock and roll by the kind of people that care about that kind of thing. Their first album bared all kinds of classic rock influences, so it was a natural association. The band, however, had other ideas. With 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday, broke that mold and played with a bunch of different genres, such as punk, blues and indie rock. They consciously tried to make everything sound like something else. As a result, they fell out of favor with some of their classic rock-minded fans, despite being heavily praised by music critics.

Last year, they recorded their best album of their career by focusing on finding a unique sound and sticking with it. The album is called Melophophia – “the fear of music”, except for them, it was the fear of only making music that they were supposed to make. It flew under a lot of people’s radars when it was released – mine included – which is a shame, because it’s uniformly fantastic. “Telescope” is arguably its best song. It features the band’s most beautiful and self-reflective lyrics, and its most comforting melody – for two thirds of the song. After that, it explodes in desperation.

“I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You” by The Hold Steady

I’ve already written plenty about The Hold Steady’s new album. But if you haven’t heard, it’s called Teeth Dreams, and it definitely has its moments. Its album-opening track is called “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You”. According to Craig Finn, it was inspired by the Arctic Monkeys song, “A Certain Romance,” which is awesome in itself. It’s about bringing home your girlfriend and worrying about the shady kinds of characters that she’s going to meet from your roots. It’s the perfect track to set the mood and reintroduce you into the seedy world in which The Hold Steady’s songs take place.

Blake Baxter is a native of Illinois and a 2013 graduate of Eureka College. He currently writes about sports and culture for Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Voices, and previously covered the Carolina Panthers for Football.com during the 2013 season, as well as college basketball for ESPN Louisville during the 2012-13 season. He has also written about sports, pop culture and politics for The College Fix, The Wine and Cheese Crowd and an assortment of newspapers. Blake works in the communication and marketing field for Technical Solutions & Services, but aspires to write full-time in the near future.

 

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2 replies

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