Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead and Drew Dixon of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share a video or two highlighting music that we find particularly engaging and meaningful.
Drew’s Picks of the Week:
Maritime’s new album, Human Hearts released this week and its pretty great. Sadly many people gave Maritime an unfair shake when their debut album disappointed. But since then they have steady been improving their sound and producing simply delightful pop rock albums. Given that the band comprises musicians from critically acclaimed indie acts, its understandable that expectation have always been high, but if you wrote them off … well that just makes me sad because We, the Vehicles is a staple in my music collection and Heresy and the Hotel Choir is a thoroughly interesting album. So where does that leave Human Hearts? The short answer is that its probably their most ambitious album to date (not counting Glass Floor) as it finds the band seeking a much brisker pace with most songs and while the album’s begging is more interesting than its conclusion, the album is interesting throughout. The guitar work here is thicker and more robust which was a pleasant surprise and Davey Von Bohlen seems to take more risks with his vocals which compliments the accompaniment nicely.
Highlights: “It’s Casual,” “Annihilation Eyes,” “Paraphanelia,” and “Black Bones”
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Despite having one of the most ambitious sounding band names I have ever heard, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart continues to produce delightful noise pop that is much less pretentious than their name. Their newest album, Belong dropped this week and I am happy to inform that it doesn’t disappoint. I cannot sum up the strengths of this album better than Ian Cohen at Pitchfork:
Coming after a scrappy, low-profile debut, this is the sort of power move that used to have cred-conscious listeners crying “sell-out!” (remember that word?), but fortunately, Belong is a bigger, bolder, and brighter follow-up that adds new dimensions to the Pains’ sound while nearly equaling the songwriting of their debut.
You can stream the album here.
Jason’s Picks of the Week:
Low has been one of my favorite bands going on 15 years now. Despite the minimal, spartan, and demanding nature of their music, I consistently find it as rewarding as it is challenging, from their masterful use of sonic dynamics to their amazing vocal harmonies, courtesy of husband/wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. Their newest album is titled C’mon and comes out on April 12. Until then, however, you can listen to C’mon in its entirety on NPR. As Josh Hurst points out in his review, that’s not really the best way to listen to Low’s music, given the band’s attention to detail and glacial dynamics. Be that as it may, my initial listens have revealed the album to be yet another stunner, and a good deal warmer and more accessible than 2007’s Drums and Guns. Low’s albums most definitely grow on you — their subtle nature basically demands that — but I will say that “Nightingale” is easily one of the best songs the band has recorded in their career.
There are those who say that electronic music ain’t got no soul. Those people have obviously never heard Junior Boys, who blend crisp, sterling electronic beats and atmosphere with Jeremy Greenspan’s croon. Greenspan’s lyrics often deal with unrequited love, romantic frustration, and longing, and his voice practically drips with angst and aching feeling. The music is indebted to classic 80s electronic pop — e.g., Erasure, Depeche Mode, OMD — and yet manage to never sound like knockoffs or wannabes. They’ve got a new album coming out in June, but you can listen to “ep” right now.