Key Changes: New Quirky Music

I love ordering the music CDs for the library – getting the inside scoop on all the new albums coming out is great fun for me. The only thing I like better is sharing the cool new music with other people! Today I’ve got another two albums, recently ordered for the library, which give us a great opportunity to think about how the artist’s work has changed and matured over the course of their career.

Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Rey is another unique installment in already unusual body of work. Her music is hard to classify in my mind, with old Americana glamour (think 1950s and 1960s) fatalistically described in hypnotic, narcotic vocals. I’ve heard it described as a red rose smoking a cigarette. Another word people use is “sadcore”, which describes a moodier, alternative musical style featuring depressive themes, bleak lyrics, and/or downbeat melodies. It’s perfect music for thinking about doomed love or the flaws in the American dream. She has continually evolved over the course of her career: her first album, Born to Die, was a breakout hit, heavy with American nostalgia but influenced by hip-hop and indie pop. A subsequent album, Ultraviolence, was more guitar-based, sounding like psychedelic or desert rock, and was followed by Honeymoon, which had a thick, crooning sound that felt like a time warp, according to one reviewer. Her next album, Lust for Life, was for her fans, and it was followed by her biggest success, Norman Fucking Rockwell, which delved deep into twisted and sordid American fantasies and was called “massive and majestic” by reviewers. In Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass, she has created a spoken word album, putting a series of original poems over musical accompaniment. Another studio album is anticipated in early 2021, titled Chemtrails over the Country Club.

Love Goes by Sam Smith is another artist that I’ve always felt stands apart from the crowd. They first rose to fame in 2012 and 2013 performing on other artists’ tracks, before releasing their first studio album In the Lonely Hour in 2014. This album rocketed to the top of the charts and won them 4 Grammy awards. They continued to release individual tracks, including Writing’s On The Wall, a very atmospheric song for a James Bond film in 2015, Promises with Calvin Harris, and Dancing with a Stranger with Normani. In 2017 they released a second studio album, The Thrill of It All, which was also a big success, especially the lead single Too Good At Goodbyes. This third album features another string of wildly successful singles including How Do You Sleep, To Die For, and I’m Ready with Demi Lovato. The beauty of Smith’s music is that it has grown increasingly personal and intimate over the course of their career; In The Lonely Hour had a crooner, R&B sound that was familiar, though extremely catchy, and the lyrics told age-old stories of love and loss reminiscent of music by Adele. With The Thrill of It All and subsequent singles, Smith became more vulnerable, putting more personal truth into their songs and developing a more meditative, unique sound. This album promises to be the most authentic record yet, featuring tracks that already popular as well as new unknown songs. Early reviews are positive, saying that with this album Smith celebrates freedom and self-expression in a way they haven’t before.

Recently Added: Quarantine Music

I think it’s safe to say the last few months have changed a lot of plans. Countless goals and dreams and ways of thinking have been forced to adapt, be revised, or be put to rest. One way, both beautiful and bittersweet, that these changes are expressed is through the art we create. Taylor Swift is a good example of what can be created in these unusual circumstances, but there are several other cases of creative projects altered by pandemic that are worth looking at. All the albums listed have recently been ordered for the library and will be available soon.

how i’m feeling now by Charli XCX is an album that was created in a truly unique way, unlikely to have arisen except in the context of self-isolation. The artist announced (where else?) on a Zoom call  that she would be making an album in self-isolation and that she would use only the tools at her fingertips to create the music, album art, everything.  Moreover, she worked collaboratively with her fans to get feedback on tracks, album art, and more. The result has been highly acclaimed by critics and fans.

In A Dream by Troye Sivan is the artist’s third album, following 2018’s Bloom. According to Sivan, this album represents an emotional rollercoaster, where emotions and feelings are shockingly fresh. Similar to Taylor Swift’s journey with Folklore, this album was made while Sivan was in lockdown in Melbourne, and it was facilitated by the boredom and isolation of the experience. Songs were created day by day and it was an unexpected realization to find that an entire album had materialized.

Here On Earth by Tim McGraw, in contrast to previous examples, was planned and recorded before the pandemic, but was unmistakably altered by it. The tour originally planned to accompany the release had to be canceled, and according to an interview with Rolling Stone, McGraw had to reexamine the record in light of the pandemic to see how its emotional impact had been changed. Some tracks, including I Called Mama, were found to have unexpected emotional weight.

ALICIA by Alicia Keys was also planned ahead of time, but struck a timely chord with its themes. Critics said the album struck a balance between hope and despair, and Keys herself said the album showed the value of introspection – something we’ve all had more time to do lately, right? The album was scheduled for release in March, but was delayed by the pandemic until September. In the meantime, various virtual performances allowed Keys to debut songs from the album ahead of its release, including the iHeart Living Room Concert for America.

Key Changes: New Pop Music

Many times, the story of a musician’s career is a sad or depressing one. The pressures of fame and the struggle to stay relevant often have devastating consequences, especially when taken in conjunction with adolescence and young adulthood, which are difficult in their own right. For that reason, I’m always happy to see artists’ work reflect a more positive or healing trajectory. There are many musicians or groups whose growth I could talk about, but for now, here are two examples drawn from my own favorites.

Taylor Swift’s Folklore came out as a complete surprise to her fans, both because no one knew it was coming, and because the sound of these songs is so different from her recent tracks. Swift is a fascinating artist for me purely because you can never quite predict what she’ll do next. She refuses to be bound by a particular genre, always seeming to fit her sound to the personal story she wants to tell. She started out using country-inspired sounds on early albums such as Taylor Swift and Fearless, switching to a more mainstream pop sound with Red and 1989. In 2017, her album Reputation took a much darker tone, only to make a complete 180 to 2019’s Lover, which was much more bubblepop inspired. Now, she’s changed course again with Folklore, which features more acoustic, indie pop sounds as well as an imaginative, fantasy vibe.

Compared to Taylor Swift, Adam Lambert is less famous, but his growth as an artist, culminating in 2020 album Velvet, is equally compelling. A powerful vocalist, Lambert got his start on American Idol in 2009 and finished as runner-up. His first album, released later that same year, was titled For Your Entertainment and leaned heavily into a glam rocker vibe, flashy and energetic. In contrast, his next album, Trespassing, struck a much more muted, darker vibe, with less glam and more edge. The movement into darkness continued with The Original High, which featured many tracks with an emptiness theme – Ghost Town, Another Lonely Night, etc. As a fan, I was concerned that this indicated the stereotypical downward spiral of the rock star. However, around that same time, Lambert started touring with iconic album Queen, lending his showstopper voice to the band’s famous repertoire. This move was a big success, and the start of a new chapter for Adam Lambert as an artist. In 2019, he started releasing tracks from a new album, Velvet. In these tracks, the tone is much more hopeful, empowered, and renewed, with tracks like Superpower and New Eyes.

I could go on and on about how interesting it is to compare musicians’ most recent work with how they got their start – and honestly I might, stay tuned – but for now, my main takeaway from these albums is the feeling of hope and imagination. It tells me that things can get better, that we continue to grow and change through difficult times.

New CDs for June

Fitz & The Tantrums — Fitz and the Tantrums

The third album from Fitz & The Tantrums is brimming with imagination, energy, and genre-smashing scope. Includes the tracks Handclap; Complicated; Do What You Want; and more.

 

 

 


Nick Jonas — Last Year Was Complicated

Radiohead continues to do things their way with the release of their first new album since 2011. Their unique rock style comes through on tracks like Burn the Witch.

 


Radiohead — A Moon Shaped Pool

Fresh off of the success of his 2014 self-titled album, Nick Jonas returns with a release that has already generated a hit with the track Close featuring Tove Lo.
Red Hot Chili Peppers — The Getaway

Along with the single Dark Necessities, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first new album in five years also includes new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and production from Danger Mouse.

 

 


Tegan & Sara — Love You to Death

The follow-up to Tegan and Sara’s 2013 pop breakthrough album, Heartthrob, is their eighth studio album and features the single Boyfriend.

 


Train — Does Led Zeppelin II

Train, the band behind such hits as Hey Soul Sister, pays homage to one of their biggest musical inspirations with the release of the first cover album of their career.

 

 

New CDs for November

Sarah Bareilles — What’s Inside: Songs from a Waitress

With her fourth full-length album, Sara Bareilles offers up a taste of the music that she has created for an upcoming Broadway musical, which is based on the 2007 film. Included is the single She Used to Be Mine.

 

 

 

Justin Bieber — Purpose

The highly anticipated album features Justin Bieber’s recent hit singles, What Do You Mean and Where Are U Now, and draws influence from an array of genres and collaborations. The iconic album chronicles Justin’s personal and artistic growth as he solidifies his place among the biggest stars of the time.

 

 

Kurt Cobain — Montage of Heck

Along with serving as an aural complement to the acclaimed documentary about the late Nirvana lead singer, this collection allows a rare and unfiltered glimpse into Kurt Cobain’s creative progression.

 

 

 

Enya — Dark Sky Island

Enya’s latest album is inspired by lyricist Roman Ryan’s work on a series of poetry books themed around islands, specifically the island of Sark’s decision to be designated as a dark sky island.

 

 

 

Kirk Franklin — Losing My Religion

On his eleventh album, Kirk Franklin once again establishes himself as the frontrunner in Gospel music. The thirteen song project explores timely themes and classic sentiments, while offering renewed testimony to Franklin’s status as a Grammy-winning songwriter and producer.

 

 

 

Ellie Goulding — Delirium

Ellie Goulding’s bold and brilliant new album represents an almighty step change, shaping a new narrative for the next stage in this remarkable singer’s journey. It also includes the single On My Mind.

 

 

 

 

Ceelo Green — Heart Blanche

Atlantic recording artist CeeLo Green’s eagerly awaited new studio album which is the superstar’s first full-length release in nearly five years. Singer/songwriter, producer, performer, TV personality, fashion icon, entrepreneur, and so much more, CeeLo Green is among the most creative and unique artists of this or any era.

 

 

 

 

Hunter Hayes — The 21 Project

Four-time Grammy nominee Hunter Hayes releases a unique and special collection. Each disc on the three CD set includes seven songs, each one performed differently-acoustic, studio, and live. It gives fans a special look into his creative mind.

 

 

 

 

Tim McGraw — Damn Country Music
In a year that has seen him performing at the Academy Awards and named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Tim McGraw releases a brand new album. Included is the new hit single Top of the World.

 
One Direction — Made in the A.M.

One of the world’s biggest pop bands returns with their highly anticipated fifth album, their first since the departure of Zayn Malik. The album features Drag Me Down, which has quickly become one of their biggest singles to date.

 

 

 

Trans-Siberian Orchestra — Letters from the Labyrinth

The latest album from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the first since 2009’s Night Castle, is being released just as the band heads out for their highly anticipated Ghost of Christmas Eve winter tour.

New CDs for October

5 Seconds of Summer — Sounds Good Feels Good

5 Seconds of Summer release the highly anticipated follow-up to their chart-topping debut album, which has sold over three million copies worldwide. Included is the new single She’s Kinda Hot.

 

 

Ryan Adams — 1989

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Ryan Adams has made headlines with his track-by-track re-recording of Taylor Swift’s hit fifth album.

 
Toby Keith — 35 MPH Town

Two years after the release of Drinks After Work, country superstar Toby Keith is back with a brand new album. Along with the title track, it includes the hit single Drunk Americans.

 
Demi Lovato — Confident

Demi Lovato has no plans of cooling down as she swings into the fall season with her highly anticipated fifth studio album. The first single, Cool for the Summer, was an MTV VMA nominee for Song of the Summer.

 
MercyMe — MercyMe, it’s Christmas!

Ten years after releasing The Christmas Sessions, MercyMe returns with a new holiday collection that features reinterpretations of classic Christmas songs as well as original songs.
Pentatonix — Pentatonix

Grammy and Dove Award winner Chris Tomlin rings in the holiday season with a mix of festive Christmas classics and original songs. There are also special guest performances from All Sons & Daughters, Lauren Daigle, Kristyn Getty, and more.
Chris Tomlin — Adore: Christmas Sounds of Worship

Grammy and Dove Award winner Chris Tomlin rings in the holiday season with a mix of festive Christmas classics and original songs. There are also special guest performances from All Sons & Daughters, Lauren Daigle, Kristyn Getty, and more.

 

 

Carrie Underwood — Storyteller

Country superstar Carrie Underwood is back with her fifth album, her first since 2012’s chart-topping Blown Away. It includes her latest hit single Smoke Break.

 

 

 

New CDs for August

AUGUST 2015

Mac Demarco — Another One

Like the days of Steely Dan or Harry Nilsson releasing a classic album every year comes an eight-track release that expands the arsenal of Mac DeMarco’s already impressive catalog, showing the maturity of his progression as songwriter.
immortalizedDisturbed — Immortalized

After a four-year hiatus, hard rock titans Disturbed announce their return with their sixth studio album, which features the lead single The Vengeful One. Their last album, Asylum, was the band’s fourth consecutive number one release.
Now That’s What I Call Music 55

From Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud to Taylor Swift’s Style, the biggest chart hits come together in a new collection that also includes hits from Maroon 5, Nick Jonas, Tove Lo, Jason Derulo, and more.
buckcherryBuckcherry — Rock N’ Roll

Notorious LA hard rockers Buckcherry come roaring back onto the scene with their seventh full-length. They keep the party going with tracks like Bring It on Back, which is also the first single.

 

TobyMac — This Is Not a Test

The sixth studio album from the Christian hip hop artist.

New CD’s for April

Mumford & Sons — Wilder Mind

Features twelve new tracks, written collaboratively by the band in London, Brooklyn, and Texas. This release marks a significant departure for the young British band from their previous two records. There is a minimalist yet panoramic feel to this new album.

 

The Plain White T’s — American Nights

After five years Plain White T’s, the band behind the hit Hey There Delilah, return with a brand new studio album. The first single, Pause, made its debut on Alternative Press’s website.

 

darius ruckerDarius Rucker — Southern Style

CMA and three-time Grammy Award winner Darius Rucker returns with his sixth solo studio album, which is the anticipated follow-up to 2013’s True Believers. Among the tracks is the new hit single Homegrown Honey.

 

Three Days Grace — Human

Ontario rockers Three Days Grace release their fifth studio album, which is the first to feature new lead singer Matt Walst. The album also includes the single I Am Machine, which has already become a hit on the rock charts.

 

Van Morrison — Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue

Van Morrison releases the 35th album of his storied career. Here he has re-recorded some of his favorite songs with the help of fellow artists including Michael Buble, Mavis Staples, and his own daughter Shana Morrison.

 

Brian Wilson — No Pier Pressure

One of popular music’s most deeply revered figures returns with his eleventh solo studio album. Joining him here are some of his former Beach Boys bandmates as well as Kacey Musgraves, fun.’s Nate Ruess, and more.

 

Zac Brown Band — Jekyll + Hyde

The fifth studio album from Zac Brown band features sixteen songs, including Heavy Is the Head with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and a collaboration with Sara Bareilles.

New CDs for March

MARCH 2015

Luke Bryan — Spring Break…Checkin’ Out

Luke Bryan’s string of EP releases has become a spring break tradition for many. Now he combines new songs along with six tracks from his 2014 digital EP, Spring Break 6…Like We Ain’t Ever.

 

 
Madonna — Rebel Heart

The Material Girl is back with her highly anticipated thirteenth studio album. Along with production from Diplo and Kanye West, the album includes a collaboration featuring Nicki Minaj. The first single is Living for Love.

 


Modest Mouse — Strangers to Ourselves

Eight years after the release of their last album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse is back with a brand new CD. It includes the single Lampshades on Fire.

 

 

Kelly Clarkson — Piece by Piece

Kelly Clarkson releases her seventh album, which follows up her holiday album Wrapped in Red and 2011’s Stronger. Features the single Heartbeat Song and John Legend joins her on Run, Run, Run.

 

 

The Prodigy — The Day is My Enemy

The electronic trio releases their sixth studio album that features collaborations with Flux Pavilion on Rhythm Bomb and Sleaford Mods on Ibiza.

 

 

Third Day — Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship

Third Day draws listeners in to worship through big melodies and layers of intricate instrumentals, and pulls them closer to Jesus through beautiful and honest moments of true worship.