This being the inaugural post of my new column, “Single Play,” it would be the height of poor manners to lay this on Popdose readers without any kind of explanation as to what they can expect. For those who have been reading Popdose since we started in 2008 (and we thank you for that), you may remember I used to have a weekly column called “Mix Six.” Well, like many writers, there comes a point where a series has just run its course –and that was the case with the “Mix Six.” I became uninspired with coming up with weekly mixes, and, quite frankly, I felt bad about offering free mp3s of the songs featured.
I still like sharing music with people, and I do like discovering new music, but since record stores in my neck of the woods aren’t all that wonderful, and since you can’t rely on radio to take a chance in breaking new acts, the world has become a more fragmented terrain to find new music and promote it. Sure, most radio stations still play the tried and true artists with regularity, and sometimes there are songs that do break through the wall of “core artists,” but more often than not the ratio of new to old in a station’s playlist favors the familiar. Having said all that, however, I don’t intend this column to be some kind alternative to what’s currently de rigueur. I’m too much of a lover of mainstream music to pretend to be a hipster. So, what you’ll get in this column are songs that have been chosen through a process that radio music directors used to use: their ears. Good music programmers would “audition” songs that landed on their desks, and if it passed their musical taste filter, they’d promote them by adding the songs to their music rotation. Sure, the process lead to some stations largely ignoring bands and singers that their audience would find appealing. But by and large that had less to do with the musical tastes of a programmer than the total corporate takeover of commercial radio that decreased number of songs in rotation, created playlists based on formulas of “safe songs,” and reinforced format walls that increased a kind of ghettoization of music.
My tastes in music may not agree with what you consider good music, but my intention is pretty simple: feature songs that I like, share them with you and hope you’ll like them, too. Some of the songs may make you groan, or may be too commercial for your musical palate, but like I wrote earlier, my taste in music is more mainstream than niche hipster. Now that the introductions are out of the way, let’s get on with the songs! And if you have songs that you think I ought to hear (you know, in the interest of sharing), feel free to list them in the comments sections and I will give them a listen. If I like what I hear, perhaps your suggestion will be featured on “Single Play.” Oh, and of course I’ll give you, dear reader, the credit.
The Fades, “Eight Times A Day”
Our sister site, Popblerd, has been so enthusiastic about this band since last year. Like many on the Popdose staff, I get my fair share of review offers from publicists, and so it goes with The Fades. Like a fool, I ignored the entreaties of The Fades’ PR guy and just sort of said “pass” as I went through my Popdose emails. And truth be told, I really wasn’t writing that much about music in 2012, so it was easy for me to pass on even a cursory listen. But I finally took the bait and gave “Eight Times A Day” a listen. For a band that has punk roots, this is such a hook-filled pop song that has The Fades singing about…love. What? Well, before you write them off as besotted and dew-eyed romantics, give this song a few spins and tell me that it doesn’t hook you. And then as a point of comparison, listen to their 2012 tune, “Meccano” and you’ll see what I’m talking about when it comes The Fades’ crossover to power pop.
Since I have a teenage daughter, I listen to a lot of Top 40 in the car, and a singer who I had pegged as a two or three hit wonder came back with strong singles in 2012-13. Ke$ha may have her formula down pat (and that’s what her fans and Top 40 radio want), but one has to admit that she executes this formula quite adroitly. Sure “C’mon” has almost all the same elements as “Tik Tok,” but she is either keeping this song PG-13 to keep the parents of her fan base happy, or at 25 , she’s just starting to mellow a bit. Whatever the case, “C’mon” is certainly going to keep Ke$ha aloft in the world of Top 40 — and for better or worse, she’s not going to fade away any time soon.
Gavin James, “Say Hello”
Well, hello Gavin James. Only a lad from Ireland and barely out of his teens, James has honed his style from gigging in pubs in his native Dublin. His voice is very mature for his age and so is his songwriting. The acoustic nature of his compositions lends itself to slower tempo songs for the most part, but in “Say Hello” James has upped the speed of the tune and delivers a performance that’s passionate, melodic, and very accomplished.
Stars, “Hold On When You Get Love, And Let Go When You Give It”
This Canadian group has been recording since 2001, and maybe you’ve heard their music — though most likely not on the radio. As is the case with many bands trying to get noticed by the mainstream, TV dramas have become a place where bands can get wider exposure. And so it is with Stars. Some of their songs have been included in episodes of Chuck, Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl and Queer As Folk, and that has helped keep the band in business. Their sixth studio album, The North, was released in September of last year, and for 2013, their latest single (with a very long title) has lead singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan trading vocals in such a way that they kinda sorta sounds like Ben Gibbard and Kate Bush. Give the song a spin and tell me you don’t hear a little Death Cab For Cutie and Kate Bush coming through.