Looking for something new? Here's what I've been listening to lately...
Artist: Matisyahu Album:LIGHT (August 25, 2009) Style: A Hasidic Jewish reggae rapper… enough said.
Less pure reggae than his previous album, Youth, Matisyahu stirs up a potent mix of indulgent pop hooks, hip-hop beats, beatboxing, and alt-rock guitar solos, tying it all together with his (uplifting) lyrical flow. Part Shakira, part Mat Kearney, part Bob Marley - this practicing Jew takes the prized elements of today's pop and hip-hop and strips them of their insolent identities while infusing them with an intelligent and irresistible iridescence that reflects on selflessness, peace, and mortality. Standout Lyric: Like fire and water be strong with compassion / In the morning we're born everlasting / ...Will you rise like a lion in the morning sun? / Or will you just lay there bleeding? Standout Lyric II: Evacuate the premises / You're your own nemesis / The premise is / We're born in blood and leave the world penniless STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM:myspace.com/matisyahu
Artist: Imogen Heap Album:Ellipse (August 25, 2009) Style: Intricate pop
Imogen Heap starts with her voice, looping it with self-harmonizing vocals and surrounding it with strings and bells and other careful layerings that bounce around like a symphonic score set to the story of the lyrics. The lyrics explore hope and fatalism and everything in between, occasionally buffered by a "da-dum, dah, day-o" but always lightly and delicately moving forward, like the swift feet of someone running through open fields. Standout Lyric: Everybody says that time heals everything / But of the wretched hollow / The endless in between? / Are we just going to wait it out? Standout Lyric II: Baby behave we'll make it work, Baby behave we'll make it work, Baby behave we'll make it work…. You're only what you give back, You're only what you give back, You're only what you give back… In Case It Bothers You: There is one curse word in "Bad Body Double," and a couple songs with lines that could be interpreted lustfully STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM:myspace.com/imogenheap
Artist: Sent By Ravens Album:Our Graceful Words (April 20, 2010) Style: Tooth & Nail rock
The latest artist to pop out of Tooth & Nail sounds a lot like Emery, or maybe Classic Crime, or maybe Kutless, or maybe…. Daughtry? If all of Tooth & Nail were compressed into a single band, this is what it might sound like. Cue the power chords and guitar licks, cue the vocal style, cue the occasional scream. I sound critical, but I confess that I like it more now than when I first listened to it. It does what it does well, the crisp modern production is present and the lyrics are strong. Standout Lyric: This house is starting to feel like my home / So lets make it beautiful, lets make it beautiful In Case It Interests You: The musicians in Sent By Ravens are known as Christians and are on the Tooth & Nail label STREAM SOME TRACKS:myspace.com/sentbyravens
Artist: Bleach Album:Astronomy (March 1, 2003) Style: Old-school "Christian" rock, with less head-banging and moshing and more smiling and foot-tapping
In light of their reappearance for Cornerstone 2010, I'm trying to rediscover a band I mostly passed on in my younger days. Take a trip back before the days of complicated, layered production or before the heavy, driving head-banging rock took over and it was just a few guys writing simple lyrics to simple melodies who didn't care if their harmonies were occasionally wobbly. Standout Lyric: Don't get jaded now / The sun will rise / Don't get jaded now / We are alive In Case It Interests You: The musicians in Bleach are known as Christians and were on the Tooth & Nail label STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM:myspace link
Artist: Aqualung Album:Magnetic North (April 20, 2010) Style: Pleasant Piano pop.
I've always had a soft spot for piano bands, and this one's got a slight jazz feel that makes you feel like you're walking around downtown while the sun's out and everything is beautiful. There are sadder ballads, too (think Augustana), and at the very least they don't deserve to be any less popular than The Fray or Keane or any of the other Coldplay chasers. If you want a pleasant pop piano summer album, it's right here. Standout Lyric: Say hello to my new friend / From my head to my toes / He is filling me up with all the things he knows / Can you hear him singing along? In Case It Bothers You: I could not find any written lyrics online yet for this album, so I can't verify the lyrical content, but I did not notice anything specific STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM:myspace.com/aqualung
Artist: MONO Album:Hymn To The Immortal Wind (March 24, 2009) Style: That long instrumental build-up thing apparently known as post-rock.
These dudes from Japan construct lush ten-minute-long instrumental wonders that are a little less sleepy than Explosions In The Sky but maybe not that interesting depending on how much you're paying attention. The free stream linked below has some live clapping at the end of the tracks which kind of detracts from the background music / soundtrack / immersion feel of the music, but I can't tell if the actual album is like that, and they have other albums as well. STREAM THE WHOLE ALBUM:absoluntepunk.net link