I recently bought several albums and my joy from these purchases is immense. I don’t normally do this kind of thing because, although I think I have pretty good taste in music (I do, after all, listen to NPR’s All Songs Considered), I don’t like to make recommendations because if someone buys/listens to the album and hates it, I am completely overcome by self-doubt. So I’m kind of going out on a limb to say that you will dig these albums, and I’m happy I purchased them.
1. Fitz & the Tantrums, Pickin Up the Pieces
Song that got me hooked: “MoneyGrabber.”
Key to this album: This band doesn’t use a conventional six-string guitar in its compositions. The main instrument is a vintage organ, and frontman Michael Fitzpatrick rocks it like it never went out of style. There’s a crazy soul vibe to each song, but there are modern twists you never would hear in an R&B tune from the ’50s. For example, one line from “MoneyGrabber” so eloquently says, “I don’t think twice for the price of a cheap time whore.” Heh.
If there’s one thing that will throw you off: Fitzpatrick’s weird attempt at a trendy hairstyle. Peter and I agree that the videos are awesome, but we just can’t get past his funky, Rogue-from-X-Men ‘do.
My favorite song on the album: “Breaking the Chains of Love.” It’s the first track, and there’s something about it that’s infectious. It’s like ebola, but it won’t kill you, and it won’t make you bleed from every orifice of your body, which is nice, because you’re infected but there aren’t any visible symptoms.
2. Foster the People, Torches
Song that got me hooked: “Pumped Up Kicks.”
Key to this album: I don’t like to dance, and this album makes me want to dance. Each song has one little piece to it that makes it catchy, makes you want to hum it until you can’t hum anymore because your throat is sore. In “Pumped Up Kicks,” there’s this little kazoo-like noise that underlies the chorus. It gets stuck in my head and I can’t get it out, but not in a bad way, like with “Hello” by Lionel Richie.
If there’s one thing that will throw you off: If you don’t like electronic music, which is something I’m just getting into, then this may not be the album for you. Some songs are pretty heavy on the electronic stuff (I don’t know the technical term — I told you, I’m just getting into it). “Life on the Nickel” has what I would consider to be a bit of a drawn-out introduction, but it’s really good once you hear the song and understand its context. Wow. I kind of sounded like a snotty hipster prick there. Awesome.
My favorite song on the album: “Houdini.” If for no other reason than it makes me dance when I’m driving on the Turnpike, and Kevin gives me weird looks.
3. Decemberists, The King is Dead
Song that got me hooked: Didn’t need one. This is one of my favorite bands, and I would have bought the album without hearing any songs. That’s what happened when I bought the album prior to this one, The Hazards of Love. Although, hearing “Down By the Water” on the radio certainly didn’t hurt.
Key to this album: The folk flow is so natural. The songs seem perkier and more upbeat, but some of the lyrics are downright depressing. Herein lies the magic of Colin Meloy and his merry troupe of musicians. This is a classically great album. Also, this is low on the list because I’m expecting you to already have heard it. If you haven’t heard it yet, you really are missing out. While you’re at it, buy the rest of your albums. I would use the first three albums as a primer, then delve into the whole “dissected, fragmented concept album” idea with The Crane Wife, then go right into The Hazards of Love, which is the definition of how to tell a tale with music. And bring tissues for “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned).”
If there’s one thing that will throw you off: Nothing. It’s perfect.
Favorite song on the album: A tie between “Don’t Carry it All” and “Dear Avery.”
OK, one more, but without as much detail.
4. Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
Song that got me hooked: “Get Some”
Key to this album: It’s refreshing. I know that word when used to describe any sort of art tends to be a bit cliche, but for someone who really dislikes a lot of new, popular music, Lykke Li’s voice is so different and powerful. She’s like a Scandinavian Fiona Apple, without the piano.
If there’s one thing that will throw you off: I’ve heard tell some people don’t care for the lyrics of “Get Some” (“I’m your prostitute. You’re gonna get some.”); others have said her voice can be grating. I don’t agree with either.
Favorite song on the album: “I Follow Rivers”
On a totally unrelated note, Kevin pooped out his first foreign body today: yellow string from his rope toy. Guess which toy is no longer in service as a result? That’s right, his yellow rope toy. He’s sad, and kind of pouty, but I took him for a really long walk and we met some new people, so he’s napping and I don’t have to deal with his accusatory stares.