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The Music of 2019: Quarter 1

Not to totally ruin the surprise, but this installment largely or entirely consists of: Josh Groban, Survivor tie-ins, Awesome Ladies, [which may or may not overlap with] Quality Christian Artists and/or Blasts From the Early 2000s Past.

JANUARY
1. Sammy Ward - Two Sides
Some days you are the pauper and some days you are the prince

I read Runaway, followed the info in the back pages to its website, and scored a sweet free download. Just real catchy, Matt-Wertz-esque music.

CD REC: ZOEGirl, "Room to Breathe" (2005)
Finally listening to that CD I picked up at a church sale for $1, this is a fantastic Christian pop group designed to appeal to a fanbase of teens/tweens. It's not so much that it has tons of standout tracks -- although I will choose a top half -- as that played as whole, the entire thing is a knockout. Zero bad tracks, each flows into the next so well that I may have played it, uh, over 30 times. This month. However, I think I can manage to walk through a top half.

2. Reason to Live
What is the meaning of life?
I've asked myself so many times


Opening track, and the opening words fall like a waterfall and just perk me up every time I hear them now, because I know I'm about to start this fun journey all over again.

3. Dead Serious
You think I'm delirious (a typical reaction)
Aren't you curious about my satisfaction?


So what I love about this is that it SOUNDS like a Britney Spears song, musically speaking, but once you actually listen to the lyrics it becomes a song about being perfectly content in your faith and how people can question you and/or think it's weird all they want, it does not change the fact that it means you're happy and at peace. Possibly more than them. (I may have embellished that last line. But that's the gist)

4. About You
I've been spending so much time disconnected
I was searching for perfection inside myself
But I finally turned away from my reflection


It caught my ear from the opening notes – kinda reminded me of Michelle Branch and The Spirit Room – and continued doing that to the end. Pretty solid lyrics, too.

5. Scream
Do I have to wear my scars like a badge on my arm
For you to see me?


These lyrics caught my ear one night and maybe made me cry.

6. Let It Out
Tell me to be quiet and I'll shout some more

BAM! Unexpeted rock-n-roll track. I love it so much.

7. Good Girl
When they try to bring you down
You'll be glad you stood your ground


Honestly, this chorus might end up being my Lyrics For The Year. I love everything in this song a lot. It's encouragement for not listening to peer pressure and keepin' on being a person like me instead of being about “mini skirts and silly reasons just to flirt.”

8. Avril Lavigne - Head Above Water
So pull me up from down below
'Cause I'm underneath the undertow


This is super-serious and powerful and honestly, it could have been released on your average contemporary Christian album. This fact is most of why I like it.
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All right, let's Get 2 Some Secularism (*Homer Simpson voice* And how!)

9. The DRAGONZ – Soul is Bare
I’m thinking hard about all of my choices
Coulda, woulda, shoulda done and said


You know what's even better than songs about Survivor contestants? Songs BY Survivor contestants, specifically Courtney Yates, Coach and JT (of The Story of JT fame). I thought this was doomed to taunt me as mere snippets of Ponderosa videos about the making-of, BUT NO. Somehow the full version made it to YouTube and I am so happy. Courtney's voice is definitely the charming one here, while Coach could use some (more) AutoTune and studio magic and JT is tragically not really identifiable despite how nice he sounds in a snippet of the Ponderosa video, but I WILL TAKE IT. This bop is catchy.

10. The DRAGONZ - On The Dance Floor
I look for trouble and I find it
It's such a rush I think I'm blinded.


This may surprise you, but this is a song you can really dance to. Also, as linked in the song title, it has an official music video! In which JT is just ridiculously attractive.

11. The DRAGONZ – Dragonz Rap (a.k.a. We Are the Dragonz)
I'm like the Romeo in my kimono
-Where'd you get that shit?
In Kyoto
-You mean Tokyo?
Girl, you messin' with my flow
-I know (I know, I know...)


WHITE DUDES RAPPING IS MY WEAKNESS. (a.k.a. this is 90 seconds of pure Coach/Courtney crack and I love it.)

FEBRUARY
12. Betty Who – The Valley
I know that you don't love me like you did before

I am so upset this is only 90 seconds long, because all the different parts in this a capella piece make the most incredibly beautiful music.

13. Betty Who – The Reunion
I told myself a thousand times
That I'd grow up and I'd be fine


And now for one that is full length and no longer a capella, but even sadder.

OK, now let's get more upbeat.

14. Kimberly Locke - 8th World Wonder
Seven days and seven nights of thunder
The water's rising and I'm slipping under


Hey, remember my once-upon-a-time American Idol fave? Probably not, 'cause she predates my LJ, but Spotify does! Thanks for the rec, buddy-pal-music service. (disclaimer: I have not watched the music video I linked to. But I'm told it's spectacularly early-00s)

15. Isabelle – Unlabeled
I'lll never be a size 2, and if I'm honest I don't want to

Because you can really never have enough body-positive anthems.

16. Maddie Zahm - Beautifully Human
You speak carefree like your words don't cut me
Who knew that the stones you threw would rebuild me?


Every time this starts, my ears perk up and think they're hearing the Pitch Perfect version of Perri's “Human” (it even includes the exact lyric 'I bleed when I fall down'), but then it turns out to be an even better anthem for believing in yourself and not letting criticism get you down.

17. Phoebe Bridgers – Motion Sickness
You said when you met me you were bored
And you, you were in a band when I was born


Admist the “Ryan Adams Confirmed Trash” hubbub, someone mentioned this song being about him, quoting this lyric, and I felt honor-bound to love it and defend her on principle, for being part of boygenius. It took a few spins but now I love it on its own merit, and it is in fact my favorite on the CD I will be reccing shortly.

18. Josh Groban – Bigger Than Us
I feel so small
With my hands up to the sky
I am reaching out tonight
'Cause this is bigger than us


I STILL haven't listened to the whole album (with each new song I love, I get more scared of encountering one I don't), but he sneaked another one by me by having its sound catch my ear in the background of a trailer for the concert tour. Very fast and dramatic. THERE'S the big, bold sound I look for in his songs. Makes sense that this is the closing track.

19. Josh Groban/Sarah McLachlan – Run
To think I might not see those eyes
It makes it so hard not to cry
And as we say our long goodbyes
I nearly do


I spent 3 months resisting, “no but I already have a Smash cover of this by Kat McPhee and you are Too Serious 4 It,” but now I love it. Because I was always going to love anything sung with My Founding Mother of Music. What great harmonies she adds.

20. Josh Groban/Jennifer Nettles – 99 Years
They built a house of love in the face of worry
But life has a way of rewriting the story


I'm still absolutely gobsmacked that there is an honest to god country-flavored song on a Josh Groban album, but also, I'm not gonna argue with a love song about planning for a lifetime together. Especially not one with some sweet guitar licks. Apparently I like those now.

21. Josh Groban – Won't Look Back
My heart was restless
And I traveled alone
But you make each place I go feel like home


My seventh tactical dive into the music pool produces another hit. I just like the music in this one. It's a ballad, so lower tier than the rest thus far, but uplifting.

CD REC: Avril Lavigne, "Head Above Water" (2019)
Now that I've ventured beyond the title single I heard one night on the radio...OMG, Avril has FINALLY released a new album that I enjoy all the way through. We're gonna ignore "Dumb Blonde" -- it's admittedly catchy until Nikki Minaj starts rapping, but IDK what it's doing on there because it is so unlike everything else on the album*, which is "inspired by her battle with Lyme disease" -- but the rest has a lovely mature sound that reminds me of the more reflective songs on her sophomore album, except this is obviously another step above. IDK, I just feel like this is what I expected her third or at least fourth CD to sound like, and what I have been waiting for ever since. However, I'm still digesting the whole package so I'm gonna stick with a few highlights for now:

*honestly it sounds exactly like a lost track from her third album

22. Avril Lavigne – Souvenir
We've packed our suitcases, we've shut up all the windows
Hold tight, soon you and I will flow anywhere the wind blows


New favorite on the album by far. I love the music A LOT, and the lyrics about extending a summer romance almost as much.

23. Avril Lavigne – Goddess
Days passed, weeks flashed
I didn't know anyone who would get it
I thought I knew about love; hadn't met it
I was lost till you found me


I'm not really sure why this one is largely acoustic; the chorus is not so introspective and it seems like it could be sped up and/or enhanced by a fair amount of production values...but it's catchy. Also, I mean, who doesn't want a guy to think we're sexy in pajamas and go “ba-nah-nahs” when we are a hot mess.

24. Avril Lavigne – Warrior
I pick my battles 'cause I know I'm gonna win the war

Nicely mirroring opening track “Head Above Water,” the closing track is an anthem to being a survivor and continuing to push onward.

MARCH
25. Dasko – New Day
Guess it's time for you to say
To say, that you're done


Mostly a lot of backing vocals with occasional repetition of a few stock lines, few of which I can even discern in full, but I pretty much brainwashed myself into loving it because I love the music video because the redhead is Victoria Baamonde, my newest Survivor goddess, starring in flashbacks that look like my dream summer-romance YA novel come to life. GO WATCH IT.

26. Lauren Aquilina – Talk to Me
There's a universe inside your head
Constellations of the things you left unsaid


I saw the above lyrics on somebody's Tumblr profile. Once I found out they were from a female singer, I just Decided to love the song.

CD REC: Phoebe Bridgers, "Stranger in the Alps" (2017)
Only a few standouts, but as a whole, it's very good background music. It all sort of blends together in this dreamy sound, like a fuzzy old record. That's how it got me, despite a few with swearing/vulgarity + some weird and disturbing imagery in "Killer," which is now banned from play if I recognize it (honestly, You Missed My Heart isn't much better; yikes that is violent).

27. Phoebe -- Smoke Signals
I went with you up to the place you grew up in
We spent a week in the cold
Just long enough to Walden it with you
Any longer, it would have got old


So many beautiful, thoughtful lyrics in this one. It's quickly becoming my new favorite. This one in particular has that sort of dreamy sound that Lana del Rey's “Video Games” does, making it feel older than it is.

28. Phoebe Bridgers – Funeral
Jesus Christ, I'm so blue all the time
And that's just how I feel
Always have and I always will


It starts with deceptively light and folksy guitar melody, before tumbling into a series of very sad verses. I found myself humming the first line above a lot afterward, though. I've actually found it a good way to remind myself to notice if I start slipping.

29. Phoebe Bridgers – Georgia
Georgia, Georgia, I love your son
When he gets older, he might be the one


Honestly thought this was a love letter to the state at first – I told you, her voice blends into the sound of the music unless you're paying strict attention! – but this new perspective changes nothing about how much I love the sound of the music or the echoey vocals.

30. Michelle Branch – Texas in the Mirror
Forty miles outside of where we're going
But I don't know where we are


Thanks, Tiger Eyes The Movie, for throwing me a beautiful new Michelle Branch song, my first in at least a decade, that DOESN'T EXIST ANYWHERE FOR PURCHASE OR STREAMING ON THE INTERNET EXCEPT YOUTUBE. How was I supposed to resist these lyrics + sparse instrumentation when five seconds of it in a scene made my ears snap to attention, and in less than thirty I was knocking over book stacks in my crashing haste to jump off the bed and find out what this beautiful song was and who sang it??

31. Mandikat - Minnesota
[full lyrics, because where else you gonna find them]Looking down on you
You glitter like fireflies in jars
Descending close to you
Shimmering just like the stars

I've traded rocks for rolling plains
And trees for buildings, cars and trains
But I will come back for you
Your river skies and eyes of blue

Did I miss the junebugs, how long was I gone?
Dandelions and the smell of rain and freshly mown lawns

After all that I've been through
I guess all I needed was you
I've been north, south, and east, and west
But Minnesota, you're the best

Did you notice, did you feel my spirit leave your crisp embrace?
Did you know, did you feel my yearning for your trees and lakes?

And River Valley, could you tell
That I cried when I said farewell?
Do you have the strength I lack?
Will you still have it when I'm back?

Maple leaves under my feet
And swallows flying overhead
The land that gets so white the trees look blue
And cardinals glow so red

I've traveled far and I'm not done
My wanderlust has just begun
But Minnesota, though I'll roam
You will always be my home


A love letter to my home state, she calls it. As for how I found it: following the awful news that MySpace “accidentally lost” all music uploaded before 2015 and now I will never hear this person's lovely electronica “Signatures” again, a song fell in love with in college, I desperately went hunting to see if she was on YouTube. That song, no, but this song yes, and now I cannot stop wishing desperately that it were fully fleshed out on a CD somewhere, with professional recording studio quality. This is pretty good, though, even with only an acoustic guitar. Her voice is great. Love the register. I can sing along!
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And now, thanks to a last-minute contender, let's close out our month with the exact opposite of prestige or quailty that almost this entre post has brought to you so far.

32. Gareth Gates - Anyone Of Us (Stupid Mistake)
The situation got out of hand
I hope you understand


You ever hear a song's chorus and just think "WOW that sound is early 2000s radio" so much that you...immediately like it enough to overlook the fact that it's about a dude trying to score sympathy by claiming that being a cheater can just "happen" to anyone? Anyway, I just want to say that this song came off Spotify's AMAZING "All Out 00s" playlist, and I'd never heard/heard of this song or artist, but I was very pleased to confirm it is in fact from 2002. Good job, ears.
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Alternatively, you may wish to look back at the previous installment.

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