The sparse, reflective arrangement of Melbourne, Australia singer-songwriter Laura Jean’s “First Love Song” may suggest a somber meditation on that most universal of human experiences. However, as Jean understands it, the truth is a lot less flowery. “This song is very straightforward to the point of being almost banal,” she says: “I suppose on some level I meant it to be. Love stories are often boring.”
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Though lounge jazz is one of the first reference points that comes to mind upon hearing Canadian songwriter Kenna Burima’s “The Warning”, her primary influence for the tune comes from a different corner of music’s darker side. “I was listening to a lot of Black Sabbath while I was writing songs for the album. When I say a lot, mean A LOT,” Burima confesses. “I’m a tad obsessive about learning something in its entirety, so I had decided that I was going to transcribe their entire Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album with all of [Tony] Iommi’s solos. I got about halfway through the album when ‘The Warning’ came to me”.
If LCD Soundsystem‘s “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” is the definitive sad-sack ballad about the Big Apple, then Julian Velard’s “New York, I Love it When You’re Mean” is its optimistic counterweight. Velard’s affinity for old-school singer/songwriters, the kind who play the classic tunes of lyricists like Cy Coleman, is in full display not just in “New York, I Love It When You’re Mean,” but also the entirety of If You Don’t Like It, You Can Leave, his upcoming concept album about that most revered of American cities. Though many in the music press have declared liking Billy Joel an act of supreme uncool, Velard is a reminder of why the music of the Piano Man, whose lineage he falls squarely into, continues to persevere. (If You Don’t Like It concludes with a cover of Joel’s “Where’s the Orchestra?”)
Call it sentimental, call it saccharine, but what Velard does exceptionally well is play music that’s thoroughly fun and equally honest. As fine as LCD Soundsystem’s lamentation is, it would not be crazy to guess that James Murphy feels the same way Velard does about the city. Velard’s heart-on-a-sleeve devotionals to New York are a refreshing reminder to look on the bright side of life, and ideal accompaniment for the now-blossoming summer.
“This was the first song I wrote for the album, and the one that launched this idea of a New York concept album,” Velard says of the tune. “I wrote it with and for someone else, a Japanese-American artist Emi Meyer. Emi was in town for the first time and really falling in love with the city. She wanted to capture the feel of New York in a song. At first I thought that was a ridiculous idea. There are a century’s worth of music and movies about NYC, entire genres that have been shaped by it. But as soon as we started, lyrics pouring out of me. I had 34 years of untapped research on living in New York. I got more experience with the city than I do with romance. The song came so easily, we finished it that afternoon. And that’s when I knew I had a lot of songs to write.”
If You Don’t Like It, You Can Leave is out on June 17th.
Last year, the LA-based dark synthpop duo Night Club—comprised of Emily Kavanaugh and former Metalocalpyse director Mark Brooks—released Love Casualty, a minor but undeniably catchy EP. Hooks on tunes like “Give Yourself Up” are hard to shake off; they, as I put it in my review of the EP, are “are designed to invade brains and stay inside for a long time.”