New Music Friday, Oct. 27, 2017

Welcome back for another episode of New Music Friday! I’ve got quite an armful of new music to walk you through, so I’ll get right to it without further introduction. As always, I’m just highlighting stuff that I like, stuff that’s important to me. I’m not gonna take too strong of an objective tone on anything for that reason. But here goes.

Let’s start with singles. Alan Walker released a collab with Miley Cyrus’ younger sister Noah Cyrus and Digital Farm Animals, a song called “All Falls Down.” (note: some language) Like his last single (“Tired [feat. Gavin James]”), this one has a lighter major key sound than his earliest singles. It’s a good tune, even if it’s not in the same strata for me as “Faded,” “Alone,” and “Sing Me to Sleep,” the three songs that Alan did with Tove Styrke as vocalist.

British electronic trio Clean Bandit has been behind some of the most fresh and innovative pop singles to get significant radio airplay in the past couple of years, and they’ve got a solid new single out featuring Julia Michaels: “I Miss You.” It’s not “Symphony” or “Rather Be,” but it’s worth a listen or five.

The next big electronic single for the week comes from Marshmello and Selena Gomez. It’s “Wolves,” and like the two other new electro-pop songs we just discussed, it struck me as solid without being exceptional, like a good album cut. Others may be more enthusiastic, but that’s how I felt.

Also in the electronic world, DJ Snake (whose “Lean On” is one of the most popular electronic songs of all time) released a new single called “Broken Summer (feat. Max Frost),” and Kygo followed up last week’s single with “Never Let You Go (feat. John Newman)“. DJ Snake’s is almost standout, while I found Kygo’s rather forgettable compared to “Kids in Love.”

Moving into other genres, Sam Smith is back with “Burning.” All I can say is, man, this new album cycle is really blowing me away. The Thrill of It All is out next week and I couldn’t be more stoked about it. It’s hard for me to decide which of the three pre-release singles is my favorite. This latest just sizzles.

WALK THE MOON‘s new LP is two weeks out, and we’re all wondering if it’s gonna have a song that will break the four-man Cincinnati rock band out of one-hit-wonder status. Their new single “Surrender” isn’t that song, but it is promising, more than the first two pre-release singles if you ask me.

Diane is the first we’ve heard from country songstress Cam since her debut album Untamed which burned down the country world with its one hit single “Burning House.” The new song is an acoustic foot-stomper. It really cuts against the grain of what’s getting a lot of radio airplay right now, but maybe that will give it some traction. I like it fairly well.

Elsewhere in singles, Gavin James released “Hearts on Fire.” Good highway kind of song. If you like Phillip Phillips you’ll like this. Also, alt-country duo First Aid Kit released “Postcard.” “Emmylou” is still their best. Finally, while I have to be honest and confess that I don’t know the pop-rock band MisterWives very well, I can also say that their new single “Never Give Up on Me” impressed me. Kind of has a similar sound to a few of the songs from this year’s Paramore record.

Albums, albums, and albums galore. I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me this Friday in the new records department, and I will try to make my way through it all quickly.

Rachel Platten released her second full-length album since the breakout single “Fight Song.” I don’t know if the world has moved on, but if it has, I do not really care. Waves doesn’t seem to be making as many as Wildfire did, but it’s a better record on the whole. I don’t know how to explain why I love Rachel Platten so much except to say that when she’s at her best she can bring so much honest human warmth to even the most un-positive subject material that it hurts. We’ve already talked about the goodness of the pre-release singles. “Whole Heart,” “Keep Up,” and “Grace” are my favorites of the new tracks. The groovy (and candidly sensual in a way that I don’t get into) “Shivers” will probably be the radio hit. All in all, Waves is just a pretty solid pop album.

The Christian hard rock band RED released their sixth studio album, Gone, but to be honest, I didn’t hear too much on it that I wanted to highlight. It feels a little muddy and maybe a little overproduced, and runs too much in lyrical and melodic tracks that the band has already established. Gone is not without its bright spots, however. The sweeping melodies of “Coming Apart” and the gentle yearning of “The Mask Slips Away” rise above the rest of the record. It’s just hard to be too excited when RED has done all the same things they tried to do on this album in the past, only better.

The Deep Dark Woods have given us Yarrow, and it’s got everything that makes them a great alt-country band. My favorites are “Up On The Mountaintop” for its cool Dorian sound, “Deep Flooding Waters” (which I highlighted two weeks ago), “San Juan Hill” (is that Emmylou Harris singing backups?), and the closing track, “The Winter Has Passed.”

I knew I was going to love the Wailin’ Jennys’ new covers album Fifteen, so titled to celebrate their fifteen years as a group. The whole thing is perfectly gorgeous, but never more so than the hypnotic and moving opener “The Old Churchyard.” If you can listen to a record like this and not hear something profoundly sublime, I’m not sure I can fully understand what you mean when you speak of “music.”

Unlike the previous selection, I didn’t know what I would think of Kelly Clarkson’s new album Meaning of Life, because the pre-release singles didn’t strike me as anything special. As it turned out, I was very pleasantly surprised. Kelly takes things in a more soul direction than she’s gone before. If “Medicine” doesn’t burn down the world on its release as a radio single, then I’m sorry to say the world has forgotten what makes a great pop song great. “Heat” is great too, and “I Don’t Think About You” (how does she even do that falsetto?).

Julie Fowlis made a name for herself with the soundtrack for Disney-Pixar’s Brave a few years ago, but she’s been quietly making excellent folk music since long before then. Her latest, alterum, is another enchanting Scottish folk record. Per usual, she sings primarily in the musical Scottish Gaelic tongue. Here’s one of the many magical tracks from the new album.

There are other significant releases–Kenny Chesney’s new Live in No Shoes Nation album, Granger Smith’s When the Good Guys Winbut the last album that I really want to highlight this week is Julien Baker’s second studio release, Turn Out The Lights. I’ve talked about Julien and what makes her great in previous instalments of New Music Friday. Along with the pre-release singles, “Everything That Helps You Sleep,” (no link yet) “Hurt Less,” and the magnificently haunting closer “Claws In Your Back” (no link yet) represent everything that is fabulous about Julien’s music.

That’s a wrap for this week! Hope you enjoyed exploring the new music with me.

~Andrew

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