With an unstoppable synth hook, hard-charging guitars and a refreshingly vulnerable portrait of romantic bliss -- "When I come home from the day's end with nothing but a dream/She's telling me she loves, she says I've been so sweet" -- "Never Afraid" by Bo and the Locomotive is as good as the St. Louis band has ever sounded.
The complex, in-your-face art rock of Cleveland's Mr. Gnome belies just how fun it can be. "Melted Rainbow" isn't just artsy; it's a gloriously poppy, simply thrilling, slightly psychedelic anthem.
Around 2005, I stumbled upon the New Pornographers via one of those ubiquitous sampler CDs stuck in the middle of every music magazine of the aughts. The song "Use It" lead me to seek out the rest of the band's third album "Twin Cinema." It was love at first listen.
The New Pornographers' sixth studio album is "Brill Bruisers," a fast, energetic record that showcases the band's numerous vocalists and musicians (Neko Case and Dan Bejar, to name a few). Heavy on synths, but also on guitars, it's a fresh take on rock 'n' roll, not afraid to explore new approaches and techniques.
New York City band Hollands (husband-and-wife duo John-Paul and Jannina Norpoth) lets it all rip -- clever lyrics, charming harmonies, a string interlude, a whole lot of groove and even more fuzz -- on the new track "Great White Shark." A song with so many elements shouldn't have so much bite, but somehow its orchestral-rock teeth sink in deep.
CMJ Music Marathon 2014 is happening, and there's no better city than New York for it. So much diversity in a city bustling with such enigmatic and exuberant life.