This week I’m highlighting 3 different tracks from 3 different artists that have stood out among the clutter this year…
Tobias Jesso Jr. is a Canadian singer/songwriter who released his debut album earlier this year. He’s got an interesting backstory. He started out in Vancouver in an indie band as a bass player. The band moved to L.A. to back a young pop singer, but that didn’t work out. So Tobias started to work as a songwriter in L.A. He didn’t have much luck as a songwriter and wasn’t finding any work. Then after breaking up with his girlfriend, he got hit by a car while riding his bike (injuring his hand and having his bike stolen in the process). The very next day he found out his mom had cancer. This chain of events helped push him to move back to Vancouver, and he decided songwriting was going to move to hobby status (his music equipment was left in storage in L.A.). He then proceeded to use the family piano to write a song for himself, which he sang (he was never confident in his singing ability). He posted a video on YouTube and Facebook, and started getting really positive feedback from both friends and strangers. As he posted some more material, more buzz followed. This eventually led to some demos and then a record deal. He worked with multiple producers on the album, including Patrick Carney (Black Keys), Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Vampire Weekend, Kylie Minogue) and Chet “JR” White (Girls). Adele tweeted a link to his video for “How Could You Babe” which garnered him a lot of attention, and he was booked on The Tonight Show for his TV debut before his album was even released. His album “Goon” came out in March and Jesso Jr. wrote it entirely himself, centering on his piano and vocals. His sound has a very ‘70s era vibe, definitely doesn’t sound contemporary at all. Jesso Jr. continues to gain popularity; I read that he was hanging with Taylor Swift and that he may be collaborating with Adele on a song for her upcoming album. So definitely check him out if you’re looking for something mellow to listen to. I’m including the lead track from his debut album “Can’t Stop Thinking About You”, which is a very stripped-down song with mostly just Tobias and his piano. It reminds me, just a little bit, of the theme from Cheers (part of the piano that is).
“Can’t Stop Thinking About You”
AWOLNATION struck it big with the anthem “Sail” from their debut album “Megalithic Symphony”, which went platinum in the U.S. and double platinum in Canada. This is a solo project from Aaron Bruno, who used it to record music that didn’t fit with his other bands he was playing with. He freely mixed genres, incorporating both live instruments and electronic elements, very slick production and a heavy electro-pop vibe. The sophomore album came out earlier this year, titled “Run”. I’ve heard it’s more of the same, but I have to admit I haven’t yet listened to the album yet. I’ve heard the lead single “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)” many times though, and I still haven’t gotten tired of it (granted I don’t listen to the radio a whole lot). So for those of you that are sick of this track, I apologize, but if you’re not familiar with it then check it out. It has all of the key AWOLNATION elements, bombastic production, and a heavily arpeggiated blend of new wave, electro and pop with a powerful chorus. This is one artist that is maybe better to listen to in small doses, becausehe mixes so many elements into his songs it can be fatiguing to take in an entire album in one sitting. My favorite part of “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf) is the chorus (I like the fast-spoken words). I also like the overly bombastic part about 3 minutes in where the music starts pounding even harder before Bruno starts screaming like a lunatic. Again, the production on this song makes it “pop” when it comes on the radio compared to most other songs.
“Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”
The Arcs is the latest collaboration from Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys). Auerbach keeps busy, in between Black Keys albums he’s recording solo albums and producing records by other artists. When his bandmate, Patrick Carney, injured his shoulder this year and the Black Keys took some time off, Auerbach pulled together a side project which is The Arcs. He partnered with Leon Michaels, a multi-instrumentalist who Auerbach worked with in the studio on albums by Lana Del Ray and Dr. John. They brought in some other friends to play on the album. “Yours, Dreamily” was released in September. The album was recorded hastily, in two weeks across three different studios, and has a spontaneous vibe to it. The music is not unlike the Black Keys, especially their last album. Auerbach does take advantage of being more experimental, there’s more of a psychedelic tone on some tracks and overall the record is a little more soulful and harkens back to classic R&B. The band is pretty tight and there’s a definite groove throughout the album. Unlike AWOLNATION, this is an album that you can easily digest all of the way through. The track I’m highlighting “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” was a favorite right away after my first listen. The song has psychedelic elements and has some cool production techniques on it to make it sound more retro. But I really like the overall vibe of the track, the band plays well together and it has a timeless element to it – not to mention a great chorus.
“Put a Flower in Your Pocket”