Simple Pop Music.
It’s a staple of every generation, with the young hip peeps always listening to some little diddity that’s catchier than all get out. Yall know what it is when you hear it. Whether you're 8 or 80 you know what pop is and you have been tapping your foot and humming along your entire life.
When I say Pop, what do you think of? What is it that you love? What’s your guilty pleasure? The ones you always, eventually, sing along to?
It doesn’t matter, just remember that lil’ gem, the way it made you feel the first time you heard it. Maybe play it a little bit later. Maybe on your way home from work.
Recently, I have been filling my Steve Jobs supporting ear holes with a number of younger artists that seem to be carving out their own sound. They all seem to be taking up their own baton in this saccharin-laced musical lexicon in ways that I can’t seem to avoid and seem to have legs. They are distinct yet reflective and appreciative of what came before as they push forward.
Some are easily describable, others just deserve a listen but they all have one thing in common.
They damn well know their pop music forefathers.
Below are a few that have been mainstays in my circulation of pop goodness recently:
Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
This album came out at the beginning of 2010, but its longevity in my consciousness should say a lot about how solid this album is.
This Silver Lake (LA), California group has played Kilby (middle of last May) and has started to garner a decent following around the country playing solid live shows backing up their album. That album is easily one of the 10 best that’s past my way this calendar year. Their simple, concise songwriting paints vividly specific images that are never forced or untrue. These minimalist portraits of life, love and living through the organically mundane of your day to day make them almost nostalgic for their impending future.
The essence of the group is their layered impressive harmonies that truly echo in the caverns of the rock pop icons of the 60’s. It takes only a faintly discerning ear to conjure up images of the young Natives scratching mom and dad’s Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Mamas & The Papas and Simon & Garfunkel records from repeated use.
I challenge you to listen to the first four songs and not hear these pop reverberations. ‘World News’ sounds like it could be a B-side off The Beach Boys classic ‘Pet Sounds’ if not for the slightly updated twinge of bearded hipsterness.
Don’t sleep on the Talking Heads cover ‘Warning Sign’ farther down on the album either.
A great strip down live version of a few of their tunes is available here: http://pitchfork.com/tv/%23/episode/2622-local-natives/2
The Local Natives are currently planning on spending the month of November on tour in Europe and currently have no plans to swing back through the mountain time zone but keep tabs on them at: http://www.myspace.com/localnatives
Aloe Blacc – Good Things
This young cat lives in the vinyl 45 stacks of yester year. His tight arrangements with timely horn licks and background vocals leave more than just a hint of a young Marvin Gaye and Sly Stone lingering in the air. Aloe absolutely knows what he wants out of every track. He knows what his voice can do and he does it very well. In his songwriting he has a critical eye that is sharp and clear in its message, a message that is overall very positive. He is a true soul gentleman in the mold of, dare I say, a young Sam Cooke (http://youtu.be/bQx728q1Sbo). For those who know, you know I take that comparison very, very seriously.
Check out the already popular single ‘I Need a Dollar,’ ‘Politician,’ the slick double entendre of ‘Miss Fortune’ and the catchier than possible ‘Green Lights,’ to hear what the buzz is about. Better yet come support this artist as he plays Urban Lounge on Tuesday November 9th. If you don’t get there, check back here for a review because there is no doubt I’ll be in the crowd.
Fitz & The Tantrums – Pickin’ Up The Pieces
Make no mistake about it this is a pop record. The slick, life long Los Angeleno Michael ‘Fitz’patrick would surely admit as much and frankly embraces it. The sound is old and new. It sounds like what you have heard before but not quite. Fitz, a session producer/artist who seems to be the love child of a young Robert Palmer and David Byrne, has found his voice. Let’s just hope that T-mobile doesn’t take them over too soon.
The hook from one song has you humming along like a classic Temptations gem while another has you snapping your fingers and faking a falsetto as if singing lead on any of the classic Berry Gordy canon. A dollop of saxophone and a dash of female doo-wop vocal evens out Fitz’s heavy front man sound, sometimes becoming the focal point for just long enough to realize the talent bubbling up through the aptly named Tantrums.
The album is solid, a bit redundant in a few spots with themes reminiscent of every third Motown love song, but ultimately this album makes you do exactly what a new disc from a new band should make you want to do…Go See Them Live. Don’t miss ‘Dear Mr. President,’ ‘L.O.V.’ and ‘Rich Girls,’ off this release.
Check them out live here and hope they make there way through town soon: