“WHO DO I LISTEN TO FIRST?”: New Music From Paul McCartney, Hozier and Greta Van Fleet!

It’s the time of year that I like to call “music Christmas”, it’s the time when a wide variety of musicians drop new music to promote an upcoming autumn/winter tours or create a hype for a tour in the upcoming year! Last night we, the rock music community, have been blessed with new music from some of the most highly anticipated artists in the scene: Paul McCartney, Hozier and Greta Van Fleet.

Honestly, it’s a little overwhelming. I’m sitting here trying to listen to them all and give them fair run-throughs, so I can actually write a review on the albums. WHERE DO I START? WHO DO I LISTEN TO FIRST? I LOVE MUSIC SO MUCH THAT MY BRAIN IS YELLING OUT OF EXCITEMENT. It truly feels like Christmas, and I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way. Lucky you for interwebs, I have decided to put my readings for Uni aside to listen to them all and tell you where you should start.

1. Egypt Station – Paul McCartney

At 76 years old Paul McCartney shows no signs of slowing down.  In nearly 8 decades Paul McCartney has released 13 video albums, 9 live albums, 25 studio albums (including his work with the Wings), 4 compilation albums and 7 classical albums — and that doesn’t even include his work with The Beatles! On top of that McCartney has been touring non-stop for over 50 years, it’s safe to say that Paul’s one and true love is music. Today, September 7, 2018, Paul has released his 25th studio album under the title of Egypt Station. Egypt Station is a jam-packed 16 tracked LP (plus two bonus songs on some special release editions).

The album opens with an instrumental track called “Station I” that transitions to track number 2 called “I Don’t Know” that immediately gives “Hey Jude” piano ballad vibes. The track is an inspirational piece that tells listeners, “it’s alright, sleep tight, I will take the strain, You’re fine, love of mine..You will feel no pain” — Classic feel-good & optimistic McCartney themes. The album then picks up into more of an easy-listening sub-genre of rock with “Come On To Me” which will be a fun sing-along song at one of his live shows with the “Do, do, do, do-do, do” bridge.

To me, Egypt Station is very classic early day Paul McCartney, with late 60s Beatles vibes. For example,  the song “Happy With You” has the toe-tapping-feel-light-hearted sound that Paul (& John) would bring out in many Beatles song such as “Blackbird” , “Dear Prudence“, “Martha My Dear” — which is why I say that Egypt Station gives a nostalgic and homely feeling. Listening to this record made my heart go tight at times because there are many songs that feel like an extension of a Beatles record.

Despite the nostalgic and classic “Paul” feelings, there are some more experimental tracks on this record. In mid-August, Paul released the song “Fuh You” with his double-sided-single release of “I Don’t Know” and “Come On To Me”, despite the two being the real singles, everyone was talking about “Fuh You” and its so-called-explicit meaning. The song has the lyrics “I just wanna know how you feel, Want a love that’s so proud and real, You make me wanna go out and steal, I just want it fuh you”. These lyrics were apparently shocking to be written by a man in his mid-70s, especially the “prim and proper” Paul McCartney. To that I say, just because Paul has never been the “Ripped jeans, leather jacket” rockstar, doesn’t mean Paul is the angel he appears to be.  Furthermore, the song was co-written by One Republics, Ryan Tedder. Maybe that partly explains it, but to me, a die-hard Paul McCartney fan… I find that those lyrics aren’t too out of character.

When I review albums,  I don’t normally give them a rating because I find that ratings poorly represent feelings and genuine thoughts on something. For example, rating-wise, Egypt Station would be a 3.7/5 (so specific I know). It’s not a three-star album, but it’s not a four+ album either. Egypt Station is good, it makes my heart feel so happy, I will be listening to it here and there, but it doesn’t blow me out of the water. It’s good because it’s Paul GOODDAMN McCartney, the man can’t necessarily do any wrong. However, like I just said it’s good, not amazing. So why am I saying its what you should listen to first? Because I think it’s an album that everyone can listen to!

Paul went back to his roots and gave us the Paul McCartney we all grew up with: the soft-rock, piano ballads, and guitar sing-alongs.  There are songs like “Despite Repeated Warnings” that has more of a live-and-let-die feeling, there are some that are more beatles-esque, this album is just1 16-18 track LP of nostalgia, packed nicely with love and care from one of the greatest humans to ever exist. This album will be appreciated by any rock music fan, and unless you’re super cold-hearted… it will make you smile.

For that, I thank you Paul.  Thank you for giving me years of comfort and love like no other musician to grace this earth. Long live Paul McCartney. 

2. Nina Cried Power – Hozier

Five years ago, when I was in a really bad relationship, all I listened to was singer-songwriters that performed hauntingly beautiful sad songs, which is how I discovered Hozier. In June of 2013, his youtube channel uploaded a live stripped down version of his song “Cherry Wine” performed on a rooftop of what looks like to be an abandoned building. It was the most beautiful video I have seen in a long time, leaving me with chills from start to finish (if you haven’t seen this video already, please watch it)

 

From there, I was instantly hooked on this man’s dark rich voice. He then released his Take Me To Church EP, which included the well known single Take Me To Church that took radio stations by storm. It was like the emergence of Mumford & Sons all over again, all of a sudden pop stations were supporting hardworking-vulnerable-singer-songwriters. Take Me To Church was quick to be Grammy nominated in 2014 after the release of the self-titled LP, Hozier.  Take Me To Church was #1 and #2 on charts all around the world and Hozier went from being a small bluesy-rock singer from Ireland to an international sensation.

Hozier toured the world, released a live album in 2015 and then went quiet. People were still playing and talking about Take Me To Church but the silence from the singer left many people in the Pop-Culture world asking if he were to become a one-hit-wonder? That is a quick and obvious “no” to people who genuinely appreciate singer-songwriters since most of us are aware that those who write based on their true emotions (and actually just straight up write their own songs), don’t pump out new music every year or even every-other-year.

So, we patiently waited, people still talked of his single, but not many people appreciated Hozier‘s body of work. Hell, not many people appreciated the single for its true worth. Which to me, is the reason why Hozier disappeared for as long as he did. A man like him doesn’t want to be known for a “popular single” especially since a lot of his music actually carries dark themes that are embezzled into controversial topics such as religion, substance abuse, emotional abuse, and the vulnerability of being a man. Hozier talks about the reality of the struggles that emotional-men go through — proving that he isn’t trying to be the next pop-star-singer-songwriter like Ed Sheeran but instead writing for therapists reasons, and sharing his passion for music.

Alas, the time has come and Hozier has dropped an EP called Nina Cried Power, giving a teaser of what to expect from his Sophomore album that he said will be released in the near future. The EP is exactly what I hoped new music from him to be like, moody. Hozier‘s dark, moody, melodies that are combined with his whiskey-smooth voice is what entices me to him. You feel every song deep in your soul, you feel every lyrics he cooes, the anger, the hurt, they become your emotions — or maybe because I am always angry and hurt, and he just makes relatable music for me.

The EP starts with EP-titled track: Nina Cried Power,  which actually sets the EP off on a more optimistic theme, as it is a gospel-esque song about protests. Hozier shared with Rolling Stones Magazine that the song was a way for him to honour  “freedom-fighting singers of years past — including Mavis Staples, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and, most notably, Nina Simone, who inspired the song’s title and EP”.  Despite the more optimistic opener, the album goes into the moody atmosphere with the track “NFWMB”. 

“NFWMB” is a song disguised as almost as a heartbreak track due to its haunting-piano-based dark melodies, however, the song tells his admiration for a lover, a song of encouragement for them. In fact, the entire EP isn’t necessarily sad, it reflects that through times of turmoil (maybe even political turmoil) his love for his baby (as he states) is what gives him the energy to fight through it. Hence the opening track of Nina Cried Power. 

The closing track, “Shrike”, tells the listeners that even with his baby no longer being there, the positive energy of love has renewed him, he is reborn: “I was hatched by your warmth, And I was transformed, But you’re grounded and giving and darkening scorn, Remember me love, when I’m reborn”. 

The four-track EP goes in full circle in a way, as it starts with words of encouragement,  then moves on to the story of love and its pains, then appropriately comes back and finishes with words of encouragement, reminding the listeners that you don’t need to be in love to radiate love and positivity, you just need to have love — whether it be for life, art, or a person, its the power of love that will get us through the dark times. That is the power of Hozier. He doesn’t need the fancy-intense guitar solos, the long notes, the guttural roars, his own vulnerability shines through all his songs that make it powerful enough to tug on your heartstrings. It’s short, it’s powerful and if you’re into blues-rock it will definitely heighten your excitement for his sophomore album.

If I had to give this EP a rating I would give it a 4.5/5

Watching Over – Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet has to be the most talked about band in modern day rock music — for good reasons.  Despite their controversial rise to fame, with constant annoying comparisons to Led Zeppelin, the band has nonetheless risen above and are in preparation to drop their second LP titled “Anthem of The Peaceful Army” that will be in store and streaming platforms October 19th. If you are new to this band and want to learn more about who they are where they come from, check out my earlier post on them called “Classic Rock, Forever Young”

Not only has it been less than 24 hours since the band announced their new record and gave fans pre-order links to purchase the album, the band also dropped the sophomore single from the record called “Watching Over”. This song is a more mellow sibling to the first single “When The Curtain Falls”, but still has a catchy groove to it. “Watching Over” is an interesting single to me, because I find that the band is not only showing their growth as musicians, but also prove that they are aware of peoples criticisms of their music, take the constructive criticism, but still stick to what they are: psychedelic-bluesy-rock.

I know a lot of people, especially the older crowd, have been unsure of this band because they find Josh (the lead singer)’s style of singing to be too piercing, and honestly I found myself thinking the same sometimes. However, I find the vocals in “Watching Over” to be a lot more controlled and enjoyable, unlike  “When The Curtain Falls” — controversial.. Ultimately, find that the two new singles, show a lot of growth in Greta Van Fleets music, and especially have a lot more personal flavour to them. They have a brilliant balance of “classic psychedelic rock” feeling, with a modern twist on it that allows Greta Van Fleet to really take credit for the music.

I give the single “Watching Over” a 4/5 and “When The Curtain Falls” a 3.5/5

All in all, there’s a lot of good new music in the world which excites me and I hope all those people who say “music sucks nowadays” open their mind a little more and be less critical!

Things people need to keep in mind when listening to this selection of new music:

  1. it’s not possible for Paul McCartney to be as vocally strong as he was in the 60s!
  2. Every new band has musical influences from past-bands, Greta Van Fleet aren’t the only ones!
  3. Hozier‘s style is melancholic and he doesn’t need to release a pop album for it to be “fresh”!

If you’re able to do that, you’ll enjoy it!

Until next time interwebs 🕸

Love,

Darya

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