It's a tradition, you know.
"John Wayne," Sons of Sylvia
The first track on their album drew me in more than any of the others I previewed, and I love it for the epic heights they strive for, from the lead singer's unexpected vocal leaps into the stratosphere, to the audacity to tell a woman he's going to come save her just like John Wayne would. Before all the American Gothic ticks were smoothed out of their creativity, this song slipped through, a little dusty, a little dangerous, and all heart.
"It Is What It Is," Lifehouse
Though the height of their fame came ten years ago, Lifehouse is still one of the best groups around. Their latest album felt a little more uneven than the others, but this song, with its slightly R&B flourishes and seriously effortless melody, is mellow and earnest at the same time, and really never gets old.
"You Lost Me," Christina Aguilera
I raved about this after she performed it at the AI finale, and the recorded version proves that sometimes nothing can match the raw emotion of a live song. Still, it's out of place on a mostly throwaway album for its simplicity and haunting arrangement, and I have to give props once again to Sia for writing this song out of the depths of her totally eccentric and fascinating soul.
"Paris (Oo La La)," Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
This band does vintage rock 'n roll and blues and does them well. I saw this performed on the Tonight Show and was blown away. It's gritty, it's got swagger, and it even feels a little dirty though it's not (I think). Grace's voice is captivating. I love it when a group creates a guitar and rhythm lick that's completely infectious and makes me want to dance to it, which I should not be doing.
"God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise," Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs
The title song from his fourth studio album is the best one, and again, I've raved about it here. Ray is just a genius. That's it. It's like he has access to this place juuuuust beyond our own dimension, and he just reaches in and pulls out melody after gorgeous melody, and sets them to perfect lyrics. You need to own all of his albums, but if you're wary, start with this song.
"Islands," Shakira/The xx
Everything Shakira does is fabulous, but that's beside the point; this song off her latest Spanish-language album (but sung in English) is particularly fabulous, and I was surprised to find out it was a cover of an original by The xx. It's just that the lyrics sound exactly like what she normally writes herself. Anyway, her version is breezy, summery, yellow, danceable; the British group's version is low-key, a little brooding, and obviously very hip. I think they wrote a great song, and you should check them out.
"Straight to You," Josh Groban
Unfortunately in our current society, an un-ironic man singing un-ironic lyrics is a strange thing, to be held at bay and regarded suspiciously. This is why Josh will always just kind of be on the outside, doing what he does. (Well, that and he got famous singing classical crossover in other languages) His latest album is a much better reflection of him. This song is beautiful. That's all, it's just beautiful, and as it's a cover of a song from 1991, it was reworked to be this kind of ethereal moment in time. (The original? Not so much) And the words just slay me. "And the sky will throw thunderbolts and sparks/Straight at you/But I'll come running/Straight to you..."
"Roll Away Your Stone," Mumford and Sons
So I just got their album two days ago. Typically when some band is poised to be the next big thing, I shy away; can't explain it, I just do. But I also want to support real music, and they obviously have it in spades. They're a London-based folk group, guys in their twenties, who create very earnest and tightly-drawn songs; some are boot-stompers, some are more delicate. My favorite so far is "Roll Away Your Stone," but I kind of get the feeling this is an album where my favorite will keep changing, until I love 'em like a Ray LaMontagne.
Any good music to share? ;-)