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The Music of 2016: Q2 [queued post]

If you thought my pace was going to slow down, you're right...to the extent that I have fewer than 50 new tracks to throw at you this time. But more than 40. And that's not counting the unspecified number you'd hear if you played all my CD recs, so you should probably consider reading this post over the course of 3-4 visits. I'd break it up into multiple posts for you, but that would distrupt my organization.

Just know that it's a few thousand words of text, because I'm pretty much my favorite blogger.

CD Rec: The O.C. Mix #5
I've elected not to number this selection because gross. However, this CD is like the most perfect representation of what all the cool people I liked in college were into, and I was always mystified by why/wanted to understand their reasons. I'm not sure I do, but having finally listened to it years after I bought it for a buck at a bag sale, it turns out that O.C. Nostalgia is enough to make me enjoy these as a group.

I can't pick most of them out of a lineup (aside from the last 3), but there aren't any I hate (except when the first track devolves to screaming at the end), and I am 1000% delighted b y the zany weirdness of “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” Also, I accidentally got attached to “California 2005,” because I love the original so much and I was desperate to hear it even though I knew it would ruin the original for me, and yep. This slower, more soothing version is now the only one I believe in. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THO.

CD Rec: Joy Williams, "Genesis"
Previously I have recced We, Say Goodbye and Child of Eden off this CD, which remain the 3 best, but I finally got around to playing the rest and I gotta say, it is worth my purchase, with zero duds (except maybe I'm In Love With You, which is a bit dull). This is a Christian pop album, but perfectly catchy. Of the remaining tracks, I most like Stay, the bouncy opening track, and God Only Knows, making clever use of a colloquial phrase to seriously say, yeah, God does know and understand, more than anyone.

**CD Rec: Yael Naim, self-titled**
I grabbed this for a buck on the strength of “Far Far” and the assumption that it had been enough years since the commercial went off air to enjoy “New Soul” again. It paid off beyond my wildest dreams, as on the first play-through I ended up loving it from beginning to end thanks to its beautiful blend of songs in English, French and Hebrew. It really takes the full set to unleash its power, which is why I'm not numbering, but it's dreamy and pretty and great. Besides Far Far, I most like Paris (in French), 7 Baboker, and the most cracktastically awesome thing you have ever heard: a cover of Britney Spears' “Toxic” slowed way down and spun as something eerie and vaguely sinister, making excellent use of music box tones.

CD Rec: Keri Noble, “A Softer Place to Land”
This is the most low-rent EP ever made by a professional recording artist – it looks like a CD printed at home – but I really like it. All 7 of the songs are positive, except the downer opening track, and even that one she explained was actually inspired by a falling-out with a close friend, “more painful than any breakup”, which is right up my interest alley. Also, this is the only one where I'm going to later highlight two specific tracks. Because those I think really need to be loved as individuals, they are so great.

Side Note: I gotta throw in a “woo!” for Keri here, who is famous enough to go on tour and have one song on Grey's Anatomy and another covered by Kelly Clarkson, but is also a local and hosts a morning show on one of the very radio stations I listen to. This is the most accessible a celeb musician has ever been, and I'm so happy I like her stuff.

-----------------

Now for indiviuduals...we're going to start with 7 songs that I was actually supposed to put on March, but I thought I was way overboard already and I wasn't sure I loved them as individuals yet. But now I really, really do. And I'm quite upset they aren't given blurbs on my LJ, so now they have been.

APRIL
58. Cassie Hernandez – Love Wreck Thrill Ride
Wrecked the promises and totaled the past
Heart's so broken, I can't help but laugh


In March, I was still resenting it for being on the Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List soundtrack, but I have now happily embraced its perfect 2000s Rainbow Stevie Preferred Pop Music basis.

59. Phoebe Ryan – Mine
I found gold in the wreckage, put it on a necklace

Just a kinda cute and innocent, bouncy pop song. With a twist! The title doesn't refer to another person, but to cherishing one's own heart after a breakup.

60. Maddie & Tae – No Place Like You
The sun comes up and it sinks back down
On every 5 star dream in every 2 star town


A+ Nashville-style country song! Had trouble choosing my favorite lyrics between the above, the verses referencing all manner of cities, and states, and the “half a dozen tanks of gas / fighting traffic getting back / I'd trade a first class seat in for your arms.”
P.S. Oh hey check it, apparently they performed it on Girl Meets World. That sounds about right.

61. Kayan Mackinnon – Espresso Kiss
Take me back to those mornings
When it was just you and I


This pairs well with “Starbucks Smile,” although it's slower and more bittersweet, and now I want a whole mix CD dedicated to songs equating coffee with love.

62. April Kry – Fireflies
It's the story of us, the way it used to be
Those honeysuckle days seem so far away to me


I am 89% amenable to this because the opening chords are straight from Lana Del Rey's “Summertime Sadness” in a different key, and funnily enough, it's a sad reminiscence of summer love.

63. Alex & Sierra – Little Do You Know
Little do you know all my mistakes are slowly drowning me
Little do you know I’m trying to make it better piece by piece


It's so unassuming...but the way the notes of the title phrase fall down is really neat, and now that I've pinned down the lyrics, I think it's a really beautiful message about reconnection. p.s. Petition to add this to my Klaine theme mix (“I’m ready to forgive you but forgetting is a harder fight”)

Apparently these guys also won an X Factor competition, somewhere, at some time.

64. Diamond Eyes/Christina Grimmie* – Stay With Me
Without you here, I disappear into infinity

A lot of rippling, echoey effects, later transitioning into some intense synthesizer and random sound effects that I think would not be out of place in an outer space movie. Or perhaps that's just what the album art reminds me of.

*6/25 edit: Ooh, ouch. I thought I had never heard of her prior to her death and it was kind of a sucker punch to see her name on this list and realize I had.

65. Fifth Harmony ft. Some Guy – Work from Home
You don't gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work

This song is offensive to people who actually work from home, like me. The music video is offensive to people who believe in reading comprehension (is there any job less likely to have a night shift than construction), and also to my eyeballs because after showing us a bunch of fit beefcakes, they bring in the tattooed-to-hell rapper, who by comparison looks even more like secondhand garbage than he normally would.

Unfortunately, I heard it randomly on the radio one night and was immediately captivated by the bubbly sound similar to the music at the beginning of “Octa Hate,” and even though I heard the dirty references the first time around, that did nothing to quench my enthusiasm. Like at this point I'm actually sort of addicted to the ridiculously male-gazey music video for reasons of "you know, these girls are actually all really pretty in individual ways. And their bodies really are doing the work. Even Some Guy has really pretty eyes if you focus on his one redeeming feature." Take it away from me!!

66. Fifth Harmony ft. Some Way Worse Guy – Worth It
[all lyrics deemed too stupid to quote]

So then I was like, “in for a penny, in for a pound." As far as I'm concerned, this song is about eating Hershey's and that is how I choose to justify the fact that I love its awesome musical hook too much to continue resisting it.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

67. The Lumineers – Ophelia
Heaven help a fool who falls in love

I've been rejecting this on the radio for a few weeks, and today it occurred to me that I was annoyed by this fact, because a) it's a song named after a girl! And b) it's the kind of song where I would probably love it if it weren't being played 6000 times a day on Top 40 stations as the ambassador of Trendy Hipster Indie Music (That Is Ironically No Longer Indie Because Of It). So I played it. And oh, my instincts are correct. And since I haven't actually heard it in full on the radio yet, having rejected it right out of the gate on principle, it's wonderful. It's a short song and just a pretty pleasant little litle of a song, with prominent piano.

AND NOW BACK IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION

68. DNCE – Cake by the Ocean
I'm tired of all this candy on the dry land

I DON'T EVEN KNOW, except that even before I realized the second such movie was about to hit theaters, it struck me as something that could be on a Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland soundtrack. I couldn't understand most of the words, okay! Someone in the TQC comm made a poll about eating cake by the ocean, and I didn't know what it was referencing, so when I finally heard it on the radio I got very excited and was susceptible to the catchy chorus.

p.s. Oh gross what the hell no one told me this involved the second least attractive Jonas Brother, or that there was an explicit version for no apparent reason. I'm so sorry. DON'T LISTEN TO IT. Especially not the non-radio version. i'll help you out by not providing a link.

MAY
And back to Spotify's Discover Weekly we go for the next 9. Spotify rarely betrays me the way I betray myself.

69. Jayme Dee – Till I Fall Asleep
We were never good at saying goodbye

I finally figured out why I like this – thanks to the male vocals, credit for which I can't currently find, the hook reminds me of a line in the song from Smash, I Heard Your Voice in a Dream – “sing to me and I will forgive you.” I don't often love ballads outside of CD sets, so take note!

70. Alyssa Light -- California Love
I knew it was all in my mind
Though it wasn't real, it still hurts to leave you behind


I mostly just like this title, but it's pretty music as part of a set -- a good fill-in for female-centric soundtracks.

71. Silver Trees ft. Baiely Jehl – Paper Hearts
All my life has been a silent fight to be okay

It took me a long time to notice the lyrics -- I mostly just liked the title, and this Bailey character's low-register harmonies -- but it's quite a thoughtful song.

72. Kacey Musgraves – Somebody to Love
We're all paper, we're all scissors
We're all fightin' with our mirrors
Scared we'll never find somebody to love


I had to kick her promising newcomer butt to the curb over the content of “Follow Your Arrow,” but secretly I have been looking for a loophole through which I could let her back in. This is exactly everything I thought she had the potential to be. The fact that the album cover has her looking like a 60s pageant queen is icing on the cake.

73. Stay Radical – Towards the Sun [cover]
Turn your face towards the sun
Let the shadows fall behind you


The amount of "this would be perfect to play over a scene in a post-apocalyptic TV show" I instantly felt about this eerie song is overwhelming.

Edit: ahahahah apparently it's a) a cover of a Rihanna song and b) from the animated children's Disney movie "Home." Whatever; the Disney version is fine, but I'm not lettin' this 5-person mixed-gender masterpiece or my vision for it go.

74. The Rocketboys – Viva Voce
Can you hear me now, can you hear me now?
I'm singing out as loud as I know how
But am I loud enough?


Not one of the stronger entries here, but I have yet to find a compelling reason to kick it off the playlist given to me. I like the piano feature and the harmonies on the chorus; it's a good tune to nod your head along to.

75. Mary Lambert -- So Far Away
Every day is a heartache
And every night I lie awake
I'm reminded that the bed is only half mine


I would really prefer not to have any connection to Tumblr's idol. But here we are, thanks to Spotify's trickery, cool music and bittersweet lyrics.

76. Carly Rae Jepsen – Run Away With Me
Over the weekend we could turn the world to gold

I can't really recommend it lyrically, and wouldn't have it on here at all, except that is some truly great saxophone bringing me to a 90s ER Theme Song place. (even though every time it starts, I mistake it for some kind of mournful Celtic instrument and when I get a pop song, I become temporarily offended by this bait and switch. But I keep playing it because by the time that fact registers, the sax is back and I'm swept away)

77. Shift – Compass
North, south, east, west
Straight to your heart

Cute, bouncy, sounds more like Carly Rae Jepsen than the above, 100% perfect Classy Pop. That's my new term for stuff that is definitely pop music, not lyrically complicated or introspective enough to be labeled Singer-Songwriter, but innocent enough to be sung on the Disney Channel rather than Top 40.

78. Kid Ink, Tyga, and I honestly cannot bring myself to type out any more of these hideous stage names – Ride Out
This the only way we know to go
Squad up, never roll alone


As said before, I just got really, really attached to the recap montage at the beginning of Furious 7. And then I realized the whole song just keeps the crew-as-family theme of the movies going ('one fall, we all fall, crew like dominoes' EXCELLENT) and the singing part is really catchy and ugh I am weak but I have listened to this 60+ times and I ain't stopping anytime soon.

79. Mike Posner – I Took A Pill In Ibiza (Seeb remix, clean version)
I get along with old timers 'cause my name's a reminder
Of a pop song people forgot


I feel pretty terrible for the fact that I unwittingly fell for a remix of what WAS a lovely acoustic song just because this is what the radio deemed commercial enough, but...now I cannot let those beats go. Sorry. I still think it's a pretty great cautionary tale and one of those rare times I'm like, “OK. You've created something of sufficient value to earn respect for overcoming addiction.”

--QUICK GENRE SWITCH --

80. Laura Cantrell – 14th Street
Maybe ten steps or twelve divide us in two
Not counting the blocks between me and you


Cantrell has had a couple of hits with me many years apart, so I grabbed her 2005 CD at a library bag sale. It's pleasant enough as a set, if not stunning, but this opening track just strikes me as really cute. I like its sing-song hook and its adorable portrayal of infatuation.

81. Laura Cantrell – What You Said
As long as that moon's forever changing
I'm forever loving you


And track #2 is the pleasant sort of Americana bluegrass song that you can see being played as background music for local festivals and 4th of July picnics.

--AND BACK TO RADIO

82. P!nk -- Just Like Fire
Just like magic, I'll be flying free
Imma disappear when they come for me


I am always inclined to hook up with P!nk singles, and unlike Kelly Clarkson, I am rarely disappointed. This one agreed with me within one minute of hearing it on the radio. The second time I heard it was right after I had a) seen the trailer for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland 2 and b) learned this was actually on the soundtrack, and oh my god, I don't even know which lens makes me love this song more: Pink's usual awesome self-confidence or Newly Defiant Alice escaping a mental institution, because they are equally great.

83. Ruth B – Lost Boy
I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we're bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook


Spotify has been unsuccessfully trying to throw Peter Pan songs at me, and then out of NOWHERE this gorgeous stripped-down creature came on the radio and blew them out of the water. Nothing but piano and a warm alto voice softly singing the the title character's story. I don't know how this attained popularity but I don't care. (p.s. Here's how)

84. Nick Fradiani – Beautiful Life
Haters can hate, and fakers can front

I checked out a Now That's What I Call Music CD because of reasons, and this was one of the “up and coming soon” tracks (alongside Skylar Stecker's "Crazy Beautiful," which was a delightful surprise validation). I've never heard of him but apparently he was the last winner of American Idol, which shows you just how irrelevant that show became in its dotage. Pleasantly adult contemporary in style.

85. Keri Noble – Dancing in the Morning
Alarm clock, going off, gotta get ready for another day
Always begins the same


A sweet and pleasingly uptempo piano number about getting ready in the morning but making time to dance with your partner before you go (not a euphemism), as inspired by her own marriage. It's barely 3 minutes long, give it a shot! Also here is a sweet video of her talking about the writing-of, although it should be noted that this track got bumped to #2 when the CD was actually released.

86. Keri Noble – Softer Place to Land
If you cry, baby I'll remind you that
Everyone falls down sometimes
So come on, take my hand
I'll be your softer place to land


This is like that sentimental Pretty Little Liars quote about being one's safe place land, but nicer, and more musical.

JUNE
87. Lucy Hale – Lie A Little Better
I just missed my exit
Last night I lost my keys
I'm fumbling over the words, I
Don't feel a bit like me these days


Speaking of PLL -- this is 50% because I am inherently cackling at her cliché “young actress, pop singer, basically same career path,” and 50% because this is actually a really catchy country-pop song, and I'm pretty sure she's been trying to nail the music career since before that show.

88. Serena Ryder - Together We Are One
We're strong when we walk together
Together we can sing much louder
Louder than any voice alone


It should be tarnished with cheese as the “Official Toronto 2015 Pan Am Theme,” clearly and embarrassingly designed as some kind of power anthem...but it kinda works. That is just some really excellent, energetic yet dramatic sounding music.

89. Jasmine Thompson – Willow
Mr. & Mrs. dreamed of a willow
Carving their names, into their willow
If he had spoken, love would return
Spoken inside, too soft to be heard


Did somebody call for a young soprano to sing an ethereal number about lost love connected to a willow tree, with a surprisingly plucky set of piano chords underneath? Neat, it's here. Has the folksy feel of Lisa Hannigan's “Lille.”

90. Sofia Karlberg – Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
Treat her better

I just really, really enjoy the way she sings the title phrase, and that it's produced with just layers of voices plus an acoustic guitar.
Edit: SPOTIFY GOT ME AGAIN! Never would have guessed this was an Adele cover. This one is better, of course.

91. Kira Stone – Peter Pan
Mermaids with their tails and technicolor scales
Dance around the Jolly Roger as it sails


This is one of those Peter Pan songs that I was talking about earlier. Apparently now it's ready to stick. It's a bit more upbeat than Lost Boy, and more innocent.

92. Kelsea Ballerini – Peter Pan (a different one)
You're always gonna fly away, just because you know you can

And lastly, the grown-up (and country) take, using the title character metaphorically for someone who can't commit.

93. Meghan Tonjes – I Will Wait
Once in a lifetime, you know you'll find
Someone's gonna make you better


Featuring lovely violin accompaniment, which must be what the David Fertello credit is for, she has a BEAUTIFUL voice that makes the sweet simplicity of this song almost ache.

94. Leroy Sanchez – Little Dancer
Perfect was within your reach but
Your mind ran and your heart couldn't keep up


I don't really understand how the verses connect to the chorus (parent, watching their daughter?), but there is such a profound sense of overall sadness that it usually makes me cry. That said, I think it's supposed to be an optimistic song overall, about it never being too late to follow your dreams?

95. Neko Case / K.D. Lang / Laura Veirs – Greens of June
Just in the moment
Everything's changed
My dark disposition
Has been rearranged


Chris is very excited about the self-titled CD these 3 ladies just put out, and this was the first song he played for me. I think he liked the fact that it's a song "about redemptive love," to quote Veirs, while I promptly took to it because of its pop-Celtic-infused sound. It is also extremely seasonally appropriate.

96. Josh Groban -- Finishing the Hat (cover from "Sunday in the Park with George")
I wrestled with whether or not to put covers from "Stages" on here, or make it a CD rec, but ultimately I decided to just pull the highlight songs I'd never heard of prior to this CD, from musicals I have also never heard of. This one comes in a light, quick flurry and reminds me of how something from the original Finding Neverland movie soundtrack would sound, if those tracks had lyrics.

97. Josh Groban - Anthem (cover from "Chess")
And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair


This is just a super ridiculously wonderful patriotic sound. Again seasonally appropriate! (Hey, the song itself never specifies which country. No one asked you to bring context into this.)

98. Josh Groban - Gold Can Turn to Sand (cover from "Kristina')
In the desert, beyond the burning prairie
We got lost, we were foolish and unwary


This is...a very strange and depressing song, lyrically (what is this song/musical even about?), but it's a breathtaking performance. This is pretty much what I was hoping the whole CD would sound like. So of course it's only on the deluxe version.

Bonus Highlights from Groban's "Stages": It's the first CD in a long time I'm not buying, as not even his gorgeous voice can rescue most of this drudgery (there are so many good Broadway songs! Or promising songs that just needed a good voice to fix them! Why would you choose theeeese), but while it'd be redundant to Officially add them to this list because they've been here before in other versions, I'd be remiss not to mention my favorite: Children Will Listen/Not While I'm Around (which had the bonus effect of making me love Glee's version of the latter, which has been bugging me not to love since 5x15 aired).

Or the bonus track I'm still giddy about after having discovered it on spotify: EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY TABLES, because THAT is the most moving male solo in Les Mis to me, and I wish more people would cover it instead of the ungodly boring “Bring Him Home” (also on this CD).  I wish I could time-travel to 2005 and deliver this cover to the version of me who was a recent obsessive convert to Les Mis and an even more recent convert to The Church of Groban.

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