Now Hear This! – February 2019
Every year, it seems like the Grammy awards get just enough right to keep us coming back. Over a decade since she arrived as one of this generation’s finest songwriters, Brandi Carlile was finally invited to the party and proceeded to burn the house down. If you brush aside the pomp and artifice of the awards show, there were some rewarding musical moments. If nothing else, hearing Kacey Musgraves sing with Dolly Parton was enough to forgive whatever the Post Malone/Red Hot Chili Peppers mash-up was supposed to represent. Here is February’s edition of Now Hear This! – the best in new music.
St. Vincent – Masseduction
The title song from her brilliant 2017 release gets a new video this week. Does that count as new music? Well, she just won a 2018 Grammy for Best Rock Song for an album that was released in 2017 so we are sliding this in. Her Grammy performance with Dua Lipa was without a doubt the best pairing of the evening. Whereas Lipa pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a pop star in 2019, St. Vincent pushes the boundaries of art to the very edge of popular music. Where the two brush up against each musically creates real tension and exhilaration. Like David Byrne and Kate Bush, St. Vincent pulls back the curtain on the mystery of popular music and exposes the machinery inside. It is hard to look away.
Jessica Pratt – This Time Around
The success of Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves might open the door for more songwriters to rise above the overly compressed music that filters through our earbuds daily. Pratt’s new album balances a more polished sound with the intimacy of her earlier releases. There is an almost pastoral quality to her hushed laments that whisper in your ear through a veil of reverb as you walk through Laurel Canyon.
Whitesnake – Shut Up and Kiss Me
There is a fine line between clever and stupid as Spinal Tap once taught us. David Coverdale manages to straddle that line so perfectly on “Shut Up and Kiss Me” that I’m inclined to call him a genius. I don’t know what surprises me more, the fact that he still drives the white Jaguar from the “Here I Go Again” video or that the band decided to base an entire new video on the steel trampoline that Tawny Kitaen used for her famous, ahem, “gymnastics” routine. Afterall, the video, and car, came to symbolize how ridiculous glam metal was becoming as the 1980s roared towards the end of the decade. After Appetite For Destruction, it is hard to look back and take the decade very seriously. And maybe that is why this, sort of, works. The song itself would fit on any of the bigger Whitesnake albums and everyone is having fun again. Sometimes, that is all we need from rock-n-roll: fun.
Foals – On the Luna
The new single from the upcoming Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Pt. 1 manages to be dancey and complicated simultaneously. Such is music with Foals. Always pushing their audience to pay attention, the band rewards close listens and “On the Luna” reveals its depth the more you hear it. With the upcoming album dropping in a few weeks and Pt. 2 expected soon after, Foals are inching ever closer to the headlining slot at Coachella and Glastonbury. This could be their year.