Band/Artist: Bob Dylan
Release Date: Sept. 11
Record Label: Columbia Overview: Dylan’s 35th studio album was highly anticipated and he did not disappoint. It is almost as if this album was a mixture of his personal life reflections as well as a tribute to other notable artists and events. The album’s title track – also the album’s longest song – deals with the Titanic tragedy and goes on for more than 13 minutes. “Roll on John” is Dylan’s way of paying homage to a musician he highly influenced – John Lennon. Both tunes are infallible highlights of the album. Dylan, who wrote all the songs on the album, continues his trademark dismal tone, typical of the artist, who wrote all the songs on the album.
Best Tune: “Narrow Way”
Although songs of John Lennon and the Titanic both strike a chord with listeners, I find “Narrow Way” to be the best tune on the album. The lyrics are sometimes harsh, and the melody follows along with an intensified, yet gloomy nature. But “Narrow Way” greatly illustrates Dylan’s ambiance found in the lyrics “It’s a long road, it’s a long and narrow way, If I can’t work up to you, you’ll surely have to work down to me someday.”The tune has a political undertone (or political undercurrents), as many of Dylan’s works usually do. For example, Dylan seems to allude to the War in Iraq, only to generalize the chorus to some kind of personal relationship.
Final Grade: A+
Band/Artist: Ellie Goulding
Release Date: Oct. 5 (?)
Record Label: Polydor Overview: Not many artists become as renowned as Ellie Goulding did after her first album “Lights.” So of course, fans and critics alike have been anxiously awaiting her second studio album. Goulding has a distinctive, breathy voice, which places her in the rare mixture of both pop and electronic genres. Her songs have been remixed many times, because she strategically utilizes her voice as the important sole instrument in most tunes. “Halcyon” received positive reviews from many critics, not least because of Goulding’s high vocal range. (Which many, including myself, cannot deny is makes up for the lack of true talent in today’s mainstream.) This sentence makes little sense – is he saying she has little talent?
Best Tune: “Hanging On”
Before the album was even released, Goulding put out an alternative version of this song, featuring Tinie Tempah, on her SoundCloud page. Aside from this being a great marketing tool, it also shows that Goulding is willing to break the mold of pop music. It is my personal favorite because the lyrics match up with the melody perfectly; Goulding makes the struggle of the song bearable to listen to over and over again. The song has already been remixed, which comes as no surprise. It will be interesting to see where Goulding goes in the future; after this single and album, it seems she has nowhere to go but up. (Again, this last sentence is a little ambiguous to me)
Final Grade: A-
Band/Artist: The Weeknd
Release Date: Nov. 13 Record Label: Universal Republic
Overview: Often linked musically to Frank Ocean, Abel Tesfaye has redefined R&B in today’s music by becoming one of the most driven, inexhaustible artists within his genre. Tesfaye, known by many as his alias The Weeknd, did not lessen his impact by releasing a short album, but rather debuted his studio work in the form of a three-disc set, comprised of 30 songs, spanning more than two hours in listening time. While this length may be overwhelming, it is important to note that listening to ten tracks as three separate albums is the best way to enjoy Tesfaye’s creation. The modern fusion of R&B and independent music has formed this contemporary genre, in which The Weeknd not only embodies, but exemplifies (a noun is missing here; what does the artist embody etc.??) through his engaging, moody album.
Best Tunes: “D.D.” and “Till Dawn (Here Comes the Sun)”
It is quite hard to pick just one favorite song within a three- disc set But to me, the most notable song would have to be “D.D.,” which is a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana.” Tesfaye gives his own unique twist on a classic. Another key tune is “Till Dawn (Here Comes the Sun),” a bonus track released as the final single just before the album was released.
Final Grade: B+
Band/Artist: Grizzly Bear
Release Date: Sept. 18
Record Label: Warp Records Overview: If you haven’t heard of the band Grizzly Bear yet, you are behind on the best new music out this fall. The indie rock band twists pop music with an unearthly feel, and because of this got rave reviews for “Shields.” Originally from Brooklyn, Grizzly Bear made its fourth album a little more experimental in order to catch the attention of fans and critics alike.
Best Tune: “Sleeping Ute”
“Sleeping Ute” is the opening track of “Shields.” The combination of the lyrics, chords and drums are not only eloquent, but almost melodramatic. Rossen, the vocalist, performs emotionally with primeval themes, but realizes the dim, mysterious quality that cannot be mistaken or forgotten. This makes the song relatable to almost any audience by proving that personal emotions can remain relevant and private at the same time.
Final Grade: A-
“good kid, M.A.A.D. city”
Band/Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Release Date: Oct. 22
Record Label: Top Dawg, Aftermath, Interscope
Overview: Kendrick Lamar gained notoriety last year after his successful release of “Section.80.” Shortly after, Dr. Dre took Lamar under his wing at Dre’s Aftermath (label?). This album is a narrative about Lamar’s adolescence. But unlike artists of most storytelling albums, Lamar admits that he was a bit insensible to the conditions of growing up in a city like Compton, Calif. Drake and Dr. Dre are both featured on the album, which only aids Lamar’s acclaim for “good kid, M.A.A.D. city.”
Best Tune: “B—-, Don’t Kill My Vibe”
Although the single “Swimming Pools (Drank)” is a favorite among most listeners, “B—-, Don’t Kill My Vibe” is my personal preference for best tune. The original version is just perfect, but interest was added when Lamar collaborated with Lady Gaga to sing the hook for an alternative version. The resulting demo was not released until just recently., It would, however, have beeneven better if Gaga came in for a bridge toward the end of the tune.
Final Grade: B+
Overall, this fall has shown that artists are getting sick of conforming to the mainstream, popular sound. I was highly impressed with these artists and albums, especially Bob Dylan’s “Tempest.” But more than anything, these five albums demonstrate that popular music is being redefined by multiple genres who are singer- songwriters – and that is what music needs today.