By: Kristin Helf, Columnist
To be completely honest, I went through what I’ll call an “ethereal soft rock” phase these past few months, and listened almost exclusively to Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks’ solo records.
That, plus watching King of the Hill reruns, plus mentally preparing myself to start working on this new music column, is how my summer was spent. Thankfully, while I was in the early 80s world of Nicks’ “Bella Donna”, I didn’t miss much when it comes to new music.
It seems that the most popular of 2015 album releases will come this fall, when we can expect new sounds from Lana del Rey, Sky Ferreira, Gwen Stefani and even The Cure.
Until then, here are my reviews of the most prominent sounds that did come out of this summer, starting with the month of June (next week will cover both July and August). Of course, this is just a small sample of the new music that exists, by artists who are popular especially to Towson students. I wish I had enough space in the paper and my brain to review absolutely everything available for public consumption!
Florence & the Machine: “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”
The title of Florence & the Machine’s third studio album is an apt descriptor for the songs on this record; it is “Big” in how professionally produced it is, with skill and craft, and the title track even includes a 36-piece orchestra.
Singer Florence Welch’s intelligent songwriting is wrought with images of the sea, the sky, a spectrum of colors, but most often blue; “And good God under starry skies we are lost/And into the breach we get tossed/And the water’s coming in fast,” she sings in the album’s second single “Ship to Wreck.”
A huge album but still somehow intimate, bellowing pop/rock songs that flow perfectly into mellow acoustic ballads, the emotion in tracks like “Various Storms & Saints” and “Long & Lost” may be blue, but they are as big and beautiful as Welch herself.
Of Monsters & Men: Beneath the Skin
Of Monsters & Men vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir described “Beneath the Skin” as the polar opposite to the band’s breakout album “My Head is an Animal,” which introduced the world to their song “Little Talks,” and also led to their being constantly referred to as “Iceland’s Mumford & Sons.”
OMAM’s folk pop sound isn’t any more original now than it was in their first album, however, and if there’s anything different in “Beneath the Skin,” it’s the reflective quality of the lyrics—less energy, and more introspection.
Hilary Duff: “Breathe In. Breathe Out.”
I know we’re college students and not teeny-boppers who still watch Disney Channel every night before bed, but guys, we grew up with Lizzie McGuire. And Hilary Duff’s first album “Metamorphosis” was really good when we were like, eight. I had to at least mention this, her first studio album since 2007’s “Dignity.”
Now to be heartbreakingly honest, “Breathe In. Breathe Out.” isn’t 2003’s “Metamorphosis,” or her self-titled album from 2004 that I, at least, knew and loved.
The music is less Disney pop and more electropop; Duff is “super into EDM,” which the album reflects, but her synthesized voice on the album sounds like it could be just about anyone, singing about heartbreak and anguish over familiar dance beats. Most of the songs on the album are radio-friendly, and I am happy about the quasi-comeback that my favorite Disney girl is making.
I’m still just going to keep listening to “So Yesterday” and “Come Clean,” though.
Additional albums worth checking out that are not listed include: Girlpool: “Before the World Was Big” Unknown Mortal Orchestra: “Multi-Love,” Beach House: “Depression Cherry,” and Leon Bridges: “Coming Home.”