Artist: Maren Morris
Genre: Country Pop
Record Label(s): Columbia Nashville
Recommended Tracks: Track 4- A Song For Everything and Track 8- Gold Love
Maren Morris is a 28 year old Nashville born country singer songwriter. Morris is the winner of multiple country awards including a grammy for best solo performance and a Country Music Award for Best New Artist. Morris released her first album “Hero” in 2016 and just this year released her second full length album “GIRL” on March 8th, but her first fully produced work was her EP released in 2015. Morris is most known for her top-40 radio hit “The Middle” which was remixed by Zedd, but fans know her for her more songs for her country hits “My Church” and “80s Mercedes”. As a fan of country music and Morris specifically I would rate this album a 3 because I enjoy this style but a lot of it sounds the same, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t a country pop fan.
“A Song For Everything” is a song about how for every emotion you could be feeling there is a song out there about it. Songs have so much meaning and Moris is talking about how no matter what you’re going through there’s definitely something written about exactly what you’re going through. We all have songs that hold a special place in our hearts or one’s that we can’t listen to for whatever reason, but music is so important and help get through anything. This song primarily is just vocals and acoustic guitar with a drum beat and some keyboard during the chorus. I think this song is meant to make you feel like you’re never really alone and there’s always someone who has felt this was and written a song about it.
If you are looking for a romantic song about the person who can get you through all the worst times the “Gold Love” is for you. She talks about feeling an instant connection with someone and how she immediately could tell they were different. This person looked past all of her sadness and insecurities and fell for the real her and she always knew he was different. This song has a more pop sound than most others on this album but still hold true to her country roots. The chorus includes rhythmic clapping and heavy use of drums.
Looking for a feel good country album “GIRL” may be worth checking out. Most of the songs are uplifting and likely to put you in a good mood. I’d say this is album is probably best for a road trip. If you are a fan of this style of pop country then you’d also probably enjoy Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, or Little Big Town.
Album: Wasteland, Baby!
Genre: Indie Rock, Soul
Record Label(s): Rubyworks, Island
Recommended Tracks: Track 6- To Noise Making (Sing) and Track 14- Wasteland Baby!
Hozier, or Andrew Hozier-Byrne, is a 29 year old singer songwriter from Ireland who is best known for the success of his first album “Hozier” featuring the hit song “Take me to Church” from 2014. Following the success of this album fans long awaited new music, but Hozier went MIA for four years staying almost completely out of the spotlight leaving everyone confused and desperately wanting more. In late 2018 Hozier broke his four year silence releasing a four song EP “Nina Cried Power” and fans lost their minds hoping for an album in the near future. On March 1st of this year Hozier released the full album “Wasteland, baby!” after teasing his followers on social media for the month prior. This album is is comprised on 14 songs in its original form and 16 songs on the deluxe version. Overall I think this album is well executed and due its long awaited release it definitely lives up to the last album and therefore I would rate this album a 5 out 5.
The song “To Noise Making (Sing)” is one of the most upbeat songs on the able since his style is typically slow and folky. The song is motivational and spreads good vibes. The message behind it is how therapeutic singing can be and it doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad, but that it is a release. The song is very soulful with tambourines, drums, guitar and piano and a choir singing and clapping the chorus with him. The song is an instant mood changer that can put anyone in a good mood reminding us that there is good in the world and singing out can help bring you joy.
Wasteland, Baby! Is the last track on the non deluxe version of the album and earned its place as the title of the album. The song is a ballad about being in love and the up and down feelings that go along with that. Hozier uses lyrics that compare love to natural disasters or end of the world events, but in regards to how strong love can be. The song is almost entirely acoustic guitar based and is filled with raw emotions. He goes on to say that all good things end, but this isn’t necessarily an end but maybe a new beginning.
Wasteland, Baby! Is everything a Hozier fan would expect and hope for from a follow up album to his self titled 2014 success. People have been looking forward to this album for years now and I think it is safe to say that it does not disappoint. The album is powerful and emotional and most songs will put you in your feelings so be prepared for an emotional but wonderful experience. If you were a fan of Hozier’s first album you should give this one a listen as well as listen to artists such as Vance Joy, James Bay, The Lumineers and James Ezra.
Album: Berkley’s On Fire
Genre: Punk Rock/Pop Punk
Recommended Tracks: Track 5- April in Houston and Track 10- Steve Got Robbed
In true Bay Area fashion, the band Swmrs has released a brand new punk rock album called fittingly titles “Berkley’s On Fire”. The Oakland based band may not be one of the biggest names out there, but you definitely know one of the dad’s of the drummer from a little band called Green Day. Billie Joe Armstrong’s son is one of the original band members of Swmrs, so clearly punk rock runs in his blood. Berkley’s on fire is the band’s fourth full length album following their most recent album Driving North from 2016. The album features 10 songs and runs at around 33 minutes long. The album is a distinct style that I happen to like a lot so I would rate it a 4 out of 5, but will warn people it isn’t everyone’s style.
April in Houston is a fan favorite off the album. The song is references a real experience of the band. The song starts with the line “My train just caught on fire and I’m stuck here at the station” referring to a show of theirs in Houston when they saw smoke in the distance and felt the explosion from a distance away while prepping for the show. The song starts with a guitar solo and other instruments come in as the song progresses. The song is about distractions and getting caught up with life suddenly realizing how fast time is flying. They use the fire as a metaphor throughout the song saying things like “your brain just caught on fire”. The song is basically talking about their fear of growing up and how quickly time flies. The chorus talks about how people will always be there when you’re at your high, but where does everyone go when you need them most.
Steve Got Robbed is definitely one of the most punk rock sounding songs on the album. The song is about “Steve” who gets robbed twice in one night. They explain how we’ve all been robbed of something but how Steve has truly had it the worst. The song goes in detail of how and where Steve was robbed. The chorus goes “Steve got robbed, it was a San Fran shit-show. Steve got robbed walking home from West Oakland Bart station with a pistol” using their signature bay area references. The song is upbeat and an overall fun ending to the pop punk album.
SWMRS are growing constantly in their genre, but still aren’t widely known. Similar artists worth checking out if you enjoy them would be bands like Remo Drive, The Regrettes, or The Frights. Punk rock still has its following despite not being everyone’s go to anymore and I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of pop punk, punk rock, or early 2000s alternative rock. This album may not be for everyone but it is well made with a fun sound that takes me back to early 2000s pop punk.
Artist: Quinn XCII
Album: From Michigan With Love
Genre: Hip-hop, reggae, EDM
Record Label(s): Columbia Records
Recommended Tracks: Track 3- Life Must Go On and Track 6- Tough (feat. Noah Kahn)
Quinn XCII, born Mikael Temrowski, is a 25 year old singer from Detroit. He is known for his distinct style mixing reggae, hip-hop, pop, and even EDM. Temrowski got his start in college under the name Mike T where he primarily just rapped without the flare of his new alter ego style. Quinn XCII came to life in 2014 when he started taking this career seriously and dropping mixtapes and EPs produced by his childhood best friend. Quinn XCII has released four EPs since 2012 and just released his second studio album, From Michigan With Love, on February 15th of this year. This album has such a unique style and is both consistent making it a solid 4 out of 5 in my eyes. The album is well produced and flows well making clean transitions between tracks.
Life Must Go On was the first single released from this album and came out on the first of February, two weeks before the release of the album. The song features Jon Bellion who has a very similar sound and style to Quinn XCII. The song is extremely catchy with an ear catching beat from start to finish and a chorus that’ll be stuck in your head for days. The song has a pop sound but captures the style that the two artists share perfectly making it have a different sound than your average pop song. The song is about their shared experiences with anxiety and how through the bads times they remember that “life must go on” giving an uplifting message of not giving up even when things seem like they can’t get worse. The song is a perfect first single off the album because it definitely sets a tone in the best way possible for the rest of the album.
Track 6, Tough featuring Noah Kahn is one of the slower more calm songs off this album. The guitar based song is about someone who puts on act of being tough and is seen as a bully. She is described as the classic millennial popular girl acting tough when in public, but how vulnerable she actually is when she is alone. The chorus says “You’re not so tough. Yeah, you watch Eat Pray Love on repeat and I’m sure you’d win in an altercation, but you’re still insecure to me” explaining how insecure these people who seem to have everything together really are but just hide that side of themselves from the rest of the world. I think really emphasizes that we all have our insecurities and how some people show off being so confident, but we all have flaws,
This album is such a feel good album that makes you just want to get up and dance around in your room. It features some cool artists of different genres, all of which mesh well with Quinn XCII all over the place genre bending. Quinn XCII may not be an artist you already know, but he is worth a listen if you like genre mixing and especially if you like Jon Bellion because of their similar sounds. The album has a fresh sound and I’d definitely recommend it!
Artist: Meghan Trainor
Album: The Love Train
Record Label: Epic
Recommended Tracks: Track 1- “All The Ways” and Track 6 – “Good Mornin’” (feat Gary Trainor)
Meghan Trainor is an American pop singer/songwriter from Massachusetts. Trainor is 25 years old and has two full-length albums out. The singer, most known for her breakout hit “All About That Bass” from 2014, just released a new love-themed EP called The Love Train on Feb. 8, just in time for Valentines Day. The EP includes six songs, most likely about her life as newlywed, having just gotten married to Daryl Sabara who is best known for being the little brother in Spy Kids. These six tracks are a perfect depiction of love at its best, showing romantic gestures and how we all envision an idealized love story. This EP can be rated a 4 on a 5 point scale purely because two of the songs sound very similar and sort of generic; nonetheless the songs are still catchy and fun, making all listeners want to feel this love being described in all six songs.
“All The Ways” is the first track of the short EP. The song is a response to her significant other telling her all the ways he loves her. The upbeat pop song has the potential to be a big hit on the radio, if she ends up releasing it as a single. The song starts off with a slower guitar sound, but builds as it progresses to the chorus. This is one of the most upbeat songs on the EP and is the song she used to announce her upcoming third album which was originally intended to be released in August 2018 but has since been postponed to later this year.
“Good Mornin’” is a fun song from the EP that has a very doo-wop sound. The song is about waking up next to her husband, and realizing how much she loves him. The song is listed to be featuring her father Gary Trainor. He plays both the piano and the organ for the song because when Trainor tried playing it, her nails made too much noise, but she still envisioned it being done on the piano. This reminiscent sound is unique to the EP, but still feels very on-brand for Trainor’s sound from prior albums. The Love Train sets the perfect mood for the ideal Valentines Day. It is romantic and happy from start to finish. This EP sounds like the ideal score for a fun romantic comedy. The album features ballads and upbeat songs, and she does play the majority of the instruments heard throughout. If you like pop music and are looking for a fun quick listen than this may be the EP for you.
Artist: Cassadee Pope
Record Label: Awake Music
Recommended Tracks: Track 3- How I Feel Right Now and Track 5- If My Heart Had a Heart
Cassadee Pope is a 29 year old pop country artist from Florida who just released her second full length album “Stages” on February 1st, 2019. The country artist gained popularity in recent years after the release of her first album and when she became the first female winner of the reality singing competition show The Voice in 2012 under the wing of her mentor Blake Shelton. Pope was no stranger to the spotlight before The Voice though, prior to her solo work, she was the lead singer of the pop-rock band Hey Monday; a big shock when compared to her now country style music. Pope’s new country album features 11 songs and runs for 33 minutes.
“How I Feel Right Now” is a feel good song about doing what you want to because you can. Cassadee makes a reference to the 1997 hit “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life” by Third Eye Blind in reference to the nostalgia of the song and how it makes her feel good. The song talks about crushes she has and dancing around in parking lots adding to the happy feeling pop country song that it is. The whole song is really about her having fun and falling in love to an upbeat pop track that gives off all good feelings. Although this is not the most mainstream sounding song on the album, it does still give off pop radio vibes that does its job of staying in your head for the rest of the day because of the catchy beat and feel good lyrics.
The song “If My Heart Had a Heart” is the only single released so far off the album “Stages”. This song is much slower and emotional compared to “How I Feel Right Now”. The song is about a breakup and the sadness she is feeling in the moment. It directly talks about what her heart would do if it was in control while she was experiencing heartbreak and sadness. She’s delving into how she wishes she could stop feeling pain and sadness and if her heart had a heart it would understand what she needs in the moment. The song sounds more country than others on the album but still remains to her labeled genre of pop country.
Cassadee Pope’s album includes a song for every mood you can be feeling involving love. The album as a whole takes you through her ups and downs and everything in between with emotions pouring out onto country tracks, and has a sense of relatability that a lot of young girls would enjoy. It is a perfect bedroom listen when you want something fun and light to listen to but still feel a connection to. So if you consider yourself a country music with pop influences fan then this album deserves 4 out of 5 rating. If you listen to “Stages” and enjoy then you should definitely check out Kelsea Ballerini, Danielle Bradbery, and Marren Morris for similar styles.
Artist: Mike Posner
Album: A Real Good Kid
Record Label(s): RCA
Recommended Tracks: Track 2- January 11th, 2017 and Track 7- Staring at the Fire
Mike Posner isn’t a name you hear around often, but you know him from his hit singles “Cooler Than Me”(2010), “Please don’t go” (2010), or “I took a Pill in Ibiza”(2016) which was remixed for the radio hit we all know so well. Some also may know Mike Posner unintentionally from his duo group of him and Blackbear collabing for one album called Mansionz. Mike Posner has released a good amount of music over the past decade, but remains fairly under the radar with exception of these few singles that have blown up. His one hit songs are something he is familiar with as he often references being a has been or having “a pop song that people forgot” despite his frequent release of new music and upcoming projects. On January 18th Posner released his 8th full length album called “A Real Good Kid” and it features 12 songs.
January 11th, 2017 is the most emotional song on this album hands down. The song is about the day his father died and how that has affected his everyday life. He goes into full detail of all the emotions he was feeling in this time of his life. He explains that this was the day he became a man as he saw his world changing. The song is slow paced and captured every ounce of Posner’s raw emotions as he fights back the tears explaining this ever so sensitive moment. The song ends with a clip of him and his dad talking saying how much they love each other and his dad teaching him how to be independent. They get on the topic of letting people go and that turns to Mike being reminded he will be letting his dad go making the song even heavier than it already was; hearing the voice behind the song. The last line of the song is the dad saying to him “You’re gonna put that into a song?” just reminding the listener of the reality of it all.
On a lighter note, the song “Staring at the Fire” is still a sad song in some regards, but in a much less direct way than January 11th, 2017. This song is about having your eye on the prize no matter what obstacles stand in the way and how toxic or bad for you they may be. The song revolves around the bridge of him saying some variation of not being able to look away from the fire because it is addicting. The song connects to both his experiences in the media and then also advocacy in America today. This song can resonate for many as it can be about whatever you want any distraction or addiction that sets you off the original path.
Mike Posner is a talented musician and songwriter that stays very lowkey. He is constantly putting out new non top 40 pop music with emotion and feeling throughout the entire album and that can be seen very clearly on this newest album of his. The songs are almost all on the slower side, none of which sound like they will be big radio hits, but are good for their heartfelt lyrics and relatability. If you like this album be sure to check out his older work and Mansionz. Some artists you could also check out are people like Sammy Adams, Nico and Vinz or Skizzy mars.
Record Label: Atlantic
Recommended Tracks: Intro- Track 1 and Gangsta- Track 19
Kehlani is a female R&B artist that prides herself on being from the Bay Area, and more specifically Oakland. She began singing and dancing both at very young ages but focused on singing after hurting her leg in middle school. In 2009 she became the lead singer of a group called Poplyfe and the group auditioned for America’s Got Talent in 2011 and finished in fourth place. Here is where she gained recognition in the media and was told she didn’t need a group to back up her vocals. In 2013 Nick Cannon took her under his wing after seeing her potential on the show and moved her to LA where she released her first single “ANTISUMMERLUV”. In 2014 Kehlani released her first mixtape “Cloud 9”, followed by a second mixtape called “You should be here” in 2015. Her first studio album “SweetSexySavage” was released on January 27, 2017 and remains the only album she has released to date.
The first track on the album fittingly called “Intro” and in fact doesn’t even feature the voice of Kehlani at all. It starts off with a spoken word poem written and recited by a then 22 year old local LA poetry writer named Reyna Biddy. The one minute poem talks about darkness and light life and the ups and downs. The poem opens with “My condolences to anyone who has ever lost me. And, to anyone who got lost in me” which speaks powerful words of the raw emotions poured into this album and it doesn’t stop there. She talks about her different personas and the labels she is given as a woman saying things like Superwoman, angry woman or crazy woman to describe how she can be at different times, but that they aren’t negative things. The point of the poem is to shine light on women for being themselves and not letting others put them down for doing so which fits well with the strong and powerful feminist feeling Kehlani emulates in SweetSexySavage which is why it is a perfect way to start off the album.
“Gangsta” is the last track on the album and quite possibly the most known due to it being featured in the blockbuster film Suicide Squad. The slow R&B sound on this song is very unique which adds to why it was such a standout off the album. The song was originally featured on the movie’s soundtrack which was released in the late summer of 2016, but she then went to put it on the album as well. The song has a mellow but seductive sound and is used for portraying the relationship of Harley Quinn and the Joker in the story line. The chorus of the song insinuates that to her gangsta means loyalty and trust which is what she is singing about in this song.
Kehlani has released many singles like “Honey” one of her most popular to date and has been featured on many other artist’s songs, but has yet to put out a following full length album, although she says it is in the works. Currently Kehlani is 8 months pregnant, but that didn’t stop her from releasing a single and music video less than a month ago. Kehlani definitely has some incredible vocal abilities and people are beginning to recognize her name especially after touring with big pop stars like Demi Lovato and Halsey or just being affiliated with G-Eazy who is also from the Bay Area. Similar artists to Kehlani currently include people like H.E.R., Tinashe, Jhene Aiko, or Ella Mai if you enjoy Kehlani they are worth giving a listen to.