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The Music of 2018: Quarter 2

or, HOW IS THIS YEAR HALF OVER?


CD Rec: Jenny Lewis, "The Voyager": A deaf pick of a library CD, based on cover art with her wearing a pastel galaxy-print outfit that would not look out of place on Sue Heck while holding a similarly patterned guitar. My instincts were on pretty on point. It took me two months to decide for sure, because there are random bits of crass language / topics and a song where she mentions being a cheater that ruffle my feathers far more than most CD recs get away with...but when I gave it back to the library, I found I missed it. As a complete work, it is eminently listenable from the opening seconds all the way to the last song, though I am only going to highlight two standout individuals.

18. Florence + The Machine – A Sky Full of Song
I couldn't hide from the thunder in a sky full of song

It was April 12th. There I was on my ninth straight weekday of radio misery driving to work, about to surrender to the 745th play of Imagine Dragons' “Thunder” this month just because its sound effects made it five percent less garbage than all the other boring garbage, when I changed the station and landed on this brand new hatchling full of such ethereal beauty, with most of her usual production stripped away, that I nearly wept on the spot. I have craved and craved to hear her voice unleashed at full potential, and sometimes it gets so close but it's never quiiite there, and now she is here in all her folk singer-songwriter glory.

(I told you, I get weird when I can't find new songs on the regular.) (side note: would you believe that despite having 9 more weeks of work, I never ran across this song again?)

19. Chvrches - Get Out
You are a kaleidoscope

I landed on this the same date as the above, just on the drive home, and inexplicably haven't heard this one since either. Go, enjoy the lovely female vocalists whom I totally didn't mistake for Avril Lavigne over a techno backing!

20. Jenny Lewis – Late Bloomer
She was searching for the writer
Of a song that made her shiver
She listened over and over
On a Walkman cassette


While I was warming up to the CD as a whole, this was the one immediate standout because it's 5 minutes long and tells a good story, like a synopsis of a YA novel, about a girl running off to Paris. Also, despite being thoroughly set in the 80s, I love how much it sounds like a sixties song.

21. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
Nothing lasts forever when you travel time

And this closing track was the other, because despite being grounded with multiple real-world references, it is impossible not to think of Doctor Who.

22. Emilie de Forest – My Empire (acoustic)
You can take my crown
But you won't get inside of my head
You can break me down
And it will rise -- my empire


Lovely piano + guitar arrangement. A Scorpion fanvid very randomly brought this into my life, and I don't think it fits Walter/Paige very well*, but I could tell immediately it was smack in the middle of my wheelhouse, musically and lyrically. I loved it so much I bought it after only about 24 hours' deliberation.
*(you know who it might fit, though? Katniss Everdeen)

23. Elyes Gabel – Bow Down (To Time?)
And I bow down to the memory
And I bow down to the time


Scorpion: what if we told u our lead actor actually plays guitar and has a lovely singing voice, but you can only have 45 seconds of it.
Me: Um, I would die? Oh please tell me you based this scene on fact and there is a full length ballad somewhere in the world where I can hear more of him + acoustic guitar.
Myspace: Here is his old page featuring 4 or 5 tantalizing-looking songs that you can't play because our website is stupid.
Me: ASD;LFKAJSDFLKAJSDFSDF?????
YouTube: Haha, your face...just kidding RS here you are. It'll be so officially unreleased you genuinely won't be able to tell its proper title or if it actually belongs to his band at this point (whose name is also tough to pin down; appears to be El and the Broken Bones at this point in time?), and you won't be certain of hardly any of the words (which may also have changed over the years in different iterations), but you'll be able to hear it all polished and lovely in some capacity anyway.

MAY
24. Elyes Gabel – Hold On
Hold on when the winter comes
Take my hand and wait for me
'Cause as lonely as it is
There's amazing grace


And another! Same predicaments as the above, but I love the sound as well as what I can decipher. Bonus: this lovely acoustic sample of it.

List Extra/Preview: The song that starts here at 18:48, High Hopes, which thus far only seems to appear in live performances, is an aural delight but also drives me nuts because it uses the same opening as the above song, and it's like – is the above song abandoned? With no official recording, did he scrap it for parts? Because if he did, that's okay; I totally dig the rhyme-spittin' in this one. I don't know why, because I really planned to hate it, but it got stuck in my head until I was humming it for my entire commute one night. Humming because once again, heck if I can understand a single verse in full; I am lucky to pick out three consecutive words.

25. Tyler Ward / Kurt Schneider – Let Her Go (cover)
You see her when you fall asleep
But never to touch and never to keep


Because a Scorpion fanvid bopped me over the head with how clearly this is the perfect theme song for Walter O'Brien re: a certain Waitress. Specifically this version, because this guy sings it so gorgeously -- a bit slowed down, accompanied by nothing but an amazing piano arrangement and faint backing vocals, with the smoothest voice -- that it immediately makes me want to purge the comparatively whiny-ass original version from my library. With a flamethrower.

26. Ruston Kelly – Black Magic
You better want what you wish for
It might happen


This has a real country-dude sound and is really not what I would have taken for a song I relate to any of my ships, but...the show decreed it so, and now much like any number of Generic Dude Band songs that Numb3rs resuscitated, I now associate it with the alternately disheartening and exhilarating closing moments of Scorpion season 2. I mean, it took me like 27 plays to enjoy any part of it other than the couplet I quoted – FYI, that couplet is amazing and it is my new theme song for television* – but I'm so glad I finally got there. Some good guitar and vocals throughout.
*I also definitely spent 2 years wishing Scorpion would get canceled and the hell off my station of Good Shows. So. That's on me.

27. Katharine McPhee – Living in the Moment
So this is how my life turns out
Lost in chapter 3
Empty vases, Spanx and no thanks
Book clubs and TV
And no one noticed, least of all me


Bless "Book Club" for coming out when it did. This was such a life preserver in my “oh god I need all of the Katharine McPhee music I have not yet played to death” quest, featuring perfect radio-friendly pop sound with no gross lyrics.

On the one hand, part of me is confused why they would hire a 34-year-old to sing from the perspective of a middle-to-retirement-aged woman (unless it's supposed to represent her inner youthfulness?), and part of me thinks that literally any singer could have done this and I probably wouldn't have given it a second listen, but because I was Motivated, I now have this shot o' joy.

28. Katharine McPhee – Had It All
I had it all, I threw it all aside
Thinkin' there was more out there I needed to find


I call this one “why the hell does my local library have 0 Katharine McPhee albums*; oh thank god there she is on a Now That's What I Call Music collection.” Like the above, this one was just immediately enjoyable, radio-friendly pop.

JUNE
29. Lizzy LeBleu - Digressions
I want to die with ambition and with purpose
But I want to live with humility and grace
And I hope my daughters grow to be just like my mother
And with the strengh and intention of living each day


I am still trying to figure out how much I actually love this song, but it has impressively thoughtful, in-depth lyrics as well as fairly minimal instrumentation/production, and perhaps that is why I can't seem to delete it off my Currently Listening playlist.

30. Lesley Roy – Unbeautiful
It was you and me against the world
And you promised me forevermore


I get the most INTENSE late 90s/early 00s radio flashbacks every time this song starts -- I can't figure out which singer she's reminding me of, but she has a really low, rough voice that is inexplicably awesome.

And the rest from here on out, it's just back to Katharine McPhee home base.

CD Rec: Katharine McPhee, "Hysteria": *Hopping over to the neighboring county's library was the ticket, and decided to start with this one since it was the shiny newest. To be honest, it took me a few spins to like any of it. I was spoiled by the acoustic performance of "Stranger Than Fiction" and not ready to accept the studio version, and the rest of it frustrated me because there are some questionably innuendo-y lyrics, if they have any substance at all. I wanted something I could dig into lyrically, pull some emotion out of (I was a Sad Panda about Scorpion, okay, I wanted one track that I could use to comfort myself about Walter/Paige from the voice of Paige herself).

My whole first impression, basically, was that I wanted the tracklist of this CD swapped with Lea Michele's "Places." Buuut, stubbornly keeping it on loop in the car worked its magic eventually, and now I find it to be a fantastic blend of fast, well produced, danceable tracks mixed with a few lovely ballads. The only one I still tend to hop over is "Lick My Lips," because I always get kind of nauseated when you associate people/kissing with taste, but overall I am SUPER happy.

Now, highlights!

31. Hysteria
I'm losing my mind
And when we collide
Everything wrong is right


As soon as this chorus hit my ears, I was nothing but an ecstatic lightining bolt of "OMG WTF I LOVE IT." I am still that way 3 weeks and infinity replays later. Awesome production embellishments, ready to hit the dance floor. It leads into two almost equally fast & fun dance numbers, which I am reluctantly passing over in lieu of my allegiance to...

32. Stranger Than Fiction
I found love from the strength of letting go
I found faith from the nights spent on my own


I guess it is actually just as good with the full studio production and backing vocals behind it. Really is a catchy melody.

33. Break
Long night, headed home
First night on my own


This is the one that really hooked me into the CD, though, mostly because it landed on my ears while I was driving home from work and already in a crying jag about Scorpion, and the chorus of "I'm about to break down / 'cause I have to say it's over now" matched up so nicely with my pain that I got mad I already had perfect title lyrics for my post about the cancellation.

34. Love Strikes
If love strikes once and one time only
All I’d have is broken dreams inside of me
But my hands trace love hearts around you


Awwww. What a pretty piano-and-strings-based ballad.

35. Only One
No, I won't run for cover in the moonlight
I don't need a part-time love


I tried to fire this on principle for the S-word, but damned if it isn't the catchiest music on the entire album besides the title track, and some of the best and sassiest lyrics, too. I absolutely could not bring myself to skip past it ever again.

36. Damage Control
And all I have’s this realization
That all the time I’ve wasted
Thinking that I could replace this
Is just the long way to what I already knew


This, I would wager, is the third-catchiest music. I would get it stuck in my head and end up humming the "long way to what I already knew" line out of the blue constantly while at work.

CD Rec: Katharine McPhee (self titled debut): This one is definitely a first-album-for-a-pop-starlet production; I can see now in comparison to the above that the above is definitely more mature and developed in every respect, but Katharine also recently did a throwback s/o to this CD on her Instagram that was basically "I don't care what you think, this was a banger," and that helped my enthusiasm along immensely. This is just pure fun. I cannot believe that in 11 years I never once pursued hearing it?? I think the only one I tend to get bored with and skip is "Home." (which is terrible, because from what I can tell it has the most quality lyrics, but...it is just so slow. Especially right on the heels of song 37 below.)

(I know there is an album in between these, but the library was disinclined to keep it in their collection so until I stumble upon a physical version I can fall in love with in my car the way I did with these, I've elected to let it remain an anticipatory mystery for Future Me.)

37. Open Toes
I need a quick fix to make these clothes hotter

This is literally a sick-beats club track about the love of buying shoes and looking hecka cute in them. I do not know who pitched this song's lyrics with a straight face, but I am glad they succeeded and found some music producers to validate them. The end result is amazing and I cannot stop listening to it. It far outstrips absolutely everything else on this CD in terms of SHEER UNADULTERATED JOYOUSNESS. I have been known to play this on repeat for my entire 20-minute commute to get pumped up for my imaginary post-work plans.

38.  Dangerous
Ladies, Imma tell it all
Be on the lookout when he's coming to your area
I fell in love with him once, girls, I'm tellin' ya
I wish I knew what I know now


My second favorite music on the CD, irresistibly catchy, and what's not to like about girls looking out for other girls?

39. Neglected
How could you neglect me
Straight up disrespect me
How could you neglect my love?


There is a very R&B vibe to this, and why that should appeal to me I don't know, except maybe it reminds me of my brief infatuation with Brandy & Monica back in the day.

Final bonus: while working on this post I stumbled across this incredible live performance of "Don't Forget Me," and oh my god, is this the best version I have ever heard?? I love this song always in every incarnation, but it is not an easy one to pull off live, which just makes this even more incredible. I see the comments are complaining about it being in a lower key -- maybe that is why it appeals to me so much; it makes it sound richer.

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